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D-backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament Takes Over SRPMIC

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray poses for photos with Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament players before the Single A baseball championship game at the Salt River Recreation ball fields on June 10.

There was little doubt as to who had the best team and who had the best player in the oldest division of June’s 19th annual D-backs Inter-Tribal Youth Tournament in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Led by tournament MVP and Community member Eric Makil, the Mesa Indians dominated the Triple A division, outscoring five opponents by a combined 57-5, including Makil’s 17-1 pitching gem in the championship game win on June 10 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Almost all the games, broken into four divisions, were played in the Community, and the Community Building was the tournament headquarters. About 1,300 Native American youth participated in the four-day tournament, including 76 teams with players from 36 tribes from Arizona, New Mexico, California, Mississippi and South Dakota.

The practice fields at Salt River Fields hosted the Double A division (ages 13-15) and Triple A division (high school) games. Most Single A division games (ages 9-12), including the championship game, were played at the Salt River Recreation ball fields near the Community Building.

The lone all-girls softball division (high school age) was played at Papago Softball Complex in east Phoenix. Girls also competed in the other divisions, side-by-side with the boys.

Makil and the three other division MVPs were acknowledged just before the Arizona Diamondbacks hosted the Milwaukee Brewers on June 10 at Chase Field in Phoenix. Tournament teams participated in a Native American Recognition Day parade on the D-backs field before the first pitch. Arizona’s tribal royalty contingent was highlighted, and dancers and singers performed in the outfield.

Arnold “Zookie” Thomas, Jr. and Elias Da Lacruz, both of Salt River, also played for the Mesa Indians.

“Having this young group, it was fun,” Mesa coach Jary Cooper said. “This year, these guys set a statement and wanted to take it all. It was fun, just to see Native American teams out there playing ball.”

Around the same time Mesa played for the Triple A title, teams from the Gila River Indian Community and Guadalupe community played for the Single A title. D-backs pitcher Robbie Ray visited with both teams before the game and posed for photos. Ray is of Cherokee descent.

The D-backs’ bobcat mascot D. Baxter, team PA announcer Chuck Drago and team organist Bobby Freeman were on hand to help introduce the teams. It was a mini-D-backs game atmosphere for the future baseball stars.

For complete results of the tournament, visit

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