On Saturday, July 13, the Arizona Diamondbacks hosted Native American Recognition Day, which is held every July at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. Presented by Gila River Casinos, festivities began at 5 p.m., prior to the D-backs game that night against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. The thousands of fans in attendance were greeted at the stadium’s main entrance by Native American dancers and performers, and the first 20,000 fans were given a D-Backs beach towel.
The pregame entertainment program featured Native American drum groups, dancers and singers of all ages. Native American royalty were also brought onto the field and introduced, wearing their traditional outfits and regalia to represent their cultures.
The event also marked the culmination of the 15th Annual Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament, which was held July 10-13 with games played at fields throughout the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (including Salt River Fields at Talking Stick) and in Tempe. Presented by the NABI Foundation (Native American Baseball and Softball Invitational) in partnership with the Arizona Diamondbacks, it’s one of the largest baseball and softball tournaments in the country, and youth from many Native American tribes are able to come together and showcase their talents. The tournament’s four divisions are for youth ages 9-12, 10-13 and in high school, and there is a girls high school softball division.
In addition to promoting tribal friendship and youth baseball, the NABI Invitational encourages players to pursue higher education. College scouts from all over the U.S. come to observe the many talented Native American ballplayers, with the hopes of securing college scholarships for them. Youth who participate also are eligible to receive financial aid from the NABI Foundation Scholarship Fund.
A pregame “parade of athletes” on Chase Field served as the tournament’s closing ceremony and recognized all the participating teams and players. The teams with members from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community were the Salt River Lil’ Nations, the Mesa Indians, the Outlawz, Salt River Senior Sandlots, Salt River Rattlers and the Salt River Native Thunder (softball). Each team was recognized, and the first-, second- and third-place teams received team and individual trophies. This year’s NABI champions included the Naataanii Black team from Kirtland, New Mexico (Single A bracket) and the So Cal Warriors (Double A bracket). The best showing among Salt River teams was by the Mesa Indians, taking third place in the Double A Division.
While all the teams made their exit, powwow dancers gathered again in the middle of the field to perform. As game time drew near, Shaylin Shabi (Navajo), Miss Native American USA 2012–13, sang the national anthem. The entire stadium stood as she sang with confidence and poise. Then Miss Gila River 2013, Lisa Hendricks, threw out the ceremonial pitch to start the game. The D-Backs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers with a final score of 5-4.
“I think [Native American Recognition Day] was a really good gesture, because not many sports teams actually put an event on like this for Native Americans. This is my second time being here, and I am just as excited as before,” said Martha Ludlow-Martinez, Miss Salt River 2013. “It is quite an experience; the royalty members are really lovely people and the staff here is nice and very welcoming to us as well.”
Angela Reina, Miss Salt River First Attendant, added, “I think it’s great to let everyone know that Native Americans are still here; we still wear our traditional wear, practice our traditional ways and dances. This is my first time participating; I was really excited. I thought it was fun and awesome. I always wanted to know [what it was like] to be on the field.”
“It’s really beneficial to the non-Natives because they get to see [a variety of cultures on the field]. I was excited and a little bit nervous. I’ve never been in a suite or down on the field before, so it was really cool,” said Nani Reina, Jr. Miss Salt River First Attendant.
This year’s Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament was definitely one to remember for Salt River youth as they continue to develop their athletic skills.
For more information and tournament results, visit http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/ari/community/intertribal_tournament.jsp.
15th Annual D-Backs Intertribal Youth Baseball & Softball Tournament
This year’s tournament was the largest in the D-Backs’ history. Here it is, by the numbers:
• More than 1,300 youth athletes
• From 5 states
• On 74 teams
• Representing 44 tribes