The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community was well represented during the 12th Annual Arizona Diamondbacks Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament and third annual Native American Baseball and Softball Invitational (NABI), July 24–28. The Onk Akimel O’odhams, Fatdawg’s Ballers, Lil’ Indians, Woodstock I and II, Sandlot and Native Thunder teams all played in different divisions throughout the week. The tournament took place throughout the Valley, with about 100 games played in Phoenix, Tempe and on the Community. All together there were 53 teams representing Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California and Oklahoma, with nearly 800 participants. The SRPMIC was a tournament co-host.
The event is designed to bring together the best baseball and softball players for a chance to show off their talents in the biggest tournament in the Southwest.
The Arizona Diamondbacks is the only Major League Baseball team that works with Native Americans in putting this type of tournament together.
The Single-A Little League Division Salt River Lil’ Indians, who were undefeated, made it to the championship bracket through some tough competition. When Lil’ Indians played against the Nevada Wolves, in the first couple of innings it was a pitching duel between the Wolves pitcher and pitcher Aaron Makil of the Lil’ Indians.
In the championship game, the Lil’ Indians displayed strong defense skills, striking out the Rockies one after another, and were very determined to take this year’s championship once again. This year they managed a repeat, winning the championship again, 9-0.
An awards presentation was held Wednesday, July 28, in the afternoon after all the baseball and softball games had ended. Makil was named Most Valuable Player in the Single-A division, his second time to take home both a championship and MVP. His teammate, catcher Kaya Hayes, received the All-Tournament Team Award for his performance in the tournament; he was one out of only seven players to win that award.
The Single-A division runners-up were the Shiprock Rockies; third place went to Four Corners from Kirtland, New Mexico, and fourth place went to the Sells Giants.
In the Senior Division for players 13–16 years old, 12 teams participated, including the Tota Warriors from Farmington, New Mexico, who won the championship. The Top Dawgs of Window Rock were the runners-up, followed by the New Mexico Firebirds in third place and the Page Natives All-Stars in fourth place.
Ten girl’s teams participated in the softball division. The Native Thunder team had several players representing the Community. In one game against the Walatowa Lady Diamonds, Native Thunder played strong in both defense and offense, not giving the Lady Diamonds a chance to score or even make it to second base at times.
Gallup Dynamite took this year’s NABI softball championship, with Native Thunder of Mesa as the runners-up. Native Thunder posted an excellent performance throughout the tournament, remaining undefeated until the championship game.