Cover Story

Community member and Mesa Indians' second baseman Aaron Makil, No. 3, swings the bat and lands himself at first base during Friday's game against the Bidziil Boyz. Makil received this year's Inter-tribal Youth Baseball tournament MVP award.

Inter-tribal Youth Baseball Tournament Showcases Native Athletes

By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

From June 18 through June 21, approximately 900 Native athletes represented 26 different tribes from across Indian Country in the 16th Annual Arizona Diamondbacks Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament and 7th Annual NABI Baseball & Softball Invitational. The Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, served as the tournament headquarters. This year, 61 teams participated in this tournament; all had hopes of receiving the championship title.

Since 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation has been the only Major League Baseball club to host a successful Inter-tribal Youth Baseball and Softball tournament. Although, with the amount of support the Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) has received from within Indian Country, the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation partnered with the NABI Foundation in 2008 to help put a brighter spot light on this tournament.

“The entire event is operated by the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation. It is one of the best things we do and we are so proud of the growth and participation. In fact, this year, we learned that more of our participants have gone on to play at the college and junior college level and are able to pursue their education. The best news of all,” said Debbie Castaldo, Diamondbacks Foundation vice-president, Corporate and Community Impact.

However, this is more than just a tournament. Native youth are encouraged to practice many characteristics on and off the field, including but not limited to: health and wellness; community and team building; sportsmanship; higher education opportunities; scholarship opportunities; and in most cases, playing at a collegiate or university level. The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and the NABI Foundation team up to show their support to the Native youth by implementing and encouraging these programs.

Throughout a stretch of four days, the tournament was played at five different locations in Tempe and Scottsdale. Each team was placed into either the Single A, Double A and Triple A Baseball or Triple A Softball Division, depending on age. The tournament grew more competitive each day, as each team had hopes of making it to their division championship bracket and eventually going home with championship bragging rights.

This has grown to be the largest baseball and softball tournament in Indian country. This year’s tournament attracted teams from as far as Oklahoma and from the four surrounding states. Temperatures hit a high of 107 degrees, but this didn’t stop the participants from coming together for the love of baseball and softball.

Native American Recognition Day
Presented by Gila River Casinos, Native American Recognition Day (NARD) was held on Saturday, June 21, at Chase Field in Downtown Phoenix. This pre-game ceremony included a “parade of athletes” for tournament participants, the presentation of tournament champions and signified the ending of the tournament. NARD was an opening for the Arizona Diamondbacks as they played the opposing San Francisco Giants.

Before doors opened at 5 p.m., baseball fans and tournament participants waited in long lines to get into Chase Field. The first 20,000 fans were given D-Backs duffle bags. With plenty of time before the first pitch, fans were able to visit a variety of informational and fun activity booths from surrounding Native programs.

As the pre-game ceremony continued into the evening, Native American royalty, pow-wow dancers, drum groups, performers, student scholars and tournament participants were recognized during the “parade of athletes.” The thousands in attendance were in awe as they were able to see and experience the rich Native cultures of Indian country.

Representing SRPMIC were Community Members: Miss Salt River, Pretty Flower Galindo; Miss Salt River First Attendant, Ariana Leonard; Jr. Miss Salt River, Evenna Lopez; Jr. Miss Salt River First Attendant, Teya Johnson-Tiger; and Jr. Miss Salt River Second Attendant, Miranda Mitchell.

Also representing SRPMIC was Community Member Kaily Toney.

For more information or results for this tournament, visit

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