This year marks the 50th anniversary of the annual Southwest All-Indian Men’s Baseball Tournament hosted by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The Salt River Recreation Department and Community Relations office planned a celebration for the tournament, a week of events to commemorate this special anniversary.
Former baseball players who participated in the Southwest Tournament over the years shared their memories and stories of the games and their fellow ballplayers.
The event to commemorate the occasion kicked off on August 1 at the Salt River Ballfield, with a crowd that was excited about seeing a lot of the old players from way back. There was a lot of picture-taking, laughing and reminiscing about the “old days,” and on this day the weather was just right for that.
The event started off with emcee Michael Douglas, athletics program supervisor for the Recreation Department, giving an introduction that covered the tournament’s history and thanking the Community Relations and Recreation staff for putting the event together. After the introduction, Bryce Nelson sang the national anthem and Elisa Briones gave the blessing.
SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier welcomed everyone and shared a few memories of his days playing baseball. He remembered how, one year, Lehi team member Terry Villalpando hit a home run to win the championship for Lehi when they were down in the last inning. Harvier also shared some of the history of the tournament.
The guest speaker was Paul Smith Sr., who played for the Salt River Braves, the Lehi team and the Mesa Indians team. Smith spoke about the wins and losses and the funny stories in between. Douglas read a list of Southwest Tournament baseball players over the last 50 years, after which a tribute video was shown. Douglas then introduced all the teams playing in this year’s tournament. To end the program, Smith, Harvier, Joseph James, Terry Enos and Arnold Makil took turns throwing the first pitch.