Despite the triple-digit heat, Native American youth ages 9 to 19 gathered to compete in the 18th Annual Arizona Diamondbacks Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament, which took place June 8-11 at various locations around the Valley, including within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community as well as at the Luis Gonzales (Tempe Beach Park) and Matt Mantei (Clark Park) baseball fields located in Tempe.
The tournament brought together a total of 55 baseball teams composed of three division levels: the single-A division included 9- to 12-year-olds; the double-A division was made up of 13- to 15-year-old players; and the triple-A division was for freshmen to senior high school students.
In addition, an 18-team youth softball tournament also took place, which was composed of high school–level players.
The overall tournament featured more than 1,000 players from 38 different tribes, out of five different states.
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.
Salt River High School hosted the softball tournament games. The single-A division games were played at the SRPMIC Recreation ball fields, the Luis Gonzales field and the Matt Mantei field, while the double-A and triple-A tournament games were held at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
On Saturday, June 11, at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, the highlight of the tournament included the opportunity for all of the teams who played in the D-backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament to attend and take part in Native American Recognition Day presented by Gila River Casinos, which was part of the pregame festivities at the Arizona Diamondbacks versus Miami Marlins game.
All teams who participated in the tournament were given the opportunity to walk in a parade around the field. This marked the tournament closing ceremonies, which also included the trophy presentation for tournament division winners, recognition of D-backs Coach of the Year for the Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament, and traditional Native American song and dance performances on and off the ball field.
Additionally, Arizona’s Tribal Royalty representatives, which included the participation of Community member Martha Martinez, Miss Scottsdale Community College 2015-16, were recognized on the field.
Other pregame festivity highlights included presentation of the colors by Ira Hayes American Legion Post 85 and singing of the national anthem. The honor of throwing the ceremonial first pitch for the game went to Monica Lynn Antone, lieutenant governor of the Gila River Indian Community.
Educational displays and exhibits by the Heard Museum, Native Health and other Native American businesses were set up in “The Sandlot” section in the stadium, which is a family-focused section of the venue.
For more information about the D-backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament, visit http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/ari/community/intertribal_tournament.jsp.
By Richie Corrales
The Lehi Lions, a team composed of 9- to 12-year-olds from the Lehi Community, played in this year’s Inter-Tribal and Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament, hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks June 8-11. The team is coached by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Robert Scabby, Joshua Chavez and David Romo Sr.
“We are a Single-A team, which is the 9- to 12-year-old boys and girls team in Little League baseball,” said Scabby. “We went one win and two losses in the pool play.
“We didn’t qualify for the tournament bracket at the end of the pool play, but we gave it our best shot,” said Scabby.
The team members also played together last year and just finished a league in Chandler at Espee Park. The coach said the Lions team is getting better every day.
“Our kids also took time to cheer on the other Double-A, Triple-A and Fast-Pitch teams throughout the pool play and tournament,” said Scabby.
The Lions finally took the field on Saturday evening, June 11, during ceremonies at the 18th annual Arizona Diamondbacks Native American Recognition Day at Chase Field. After the opening ceremonies, they all enjoyed watching a MLB game together as the D-Backs hosted the Florida Marlins.
The Lehi Lions are an up-and-coming team and plan on staying together and competing next year in the 2017 D-Backs Inter-Tribal tournament. Their goal is to win it all.
The D-backs host the tournament every year, with games played at ballparks throughout the SRPMIC and the Valley, including Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. This year the tournament fielded 74 teams from 38 tribes, or more than 1,000 participants, from Arizona, New Mexico, California, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Single A Division Pool Play Results
Lehi Lions 4, Goodyear Warriors 6
Lehi Lions 4, Page All-Stars 9
Lehi Lions 5, Naa’taanii Rockies 3
Salt River Banditos
By Sheila Begay
The Salt River Banditos, coached by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Rito Lopez, participated again in the single-A division of the 18th Annual D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament. The Banditos played with heart, and that’s all that mattered to Lopez.
The Banditos had no problem with the blistering heat as they played a total of three games in the triple-elimination tournament at the SRPMIC Recreation ball field.
Single-A Baseball Pool Play Results
SR Banditos 0, Top Dawgz 11
SR Banditos 7, Komatke Reds 17
SR Banditos 1, Oklahoma Natives 11
Salt River Rebels
By Sheila Begay
The Salt River Rebels, coached by Community member Bryan Smith, participated in the double-A division of the 18th Annual D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament. The Rebels gave it their all but left ready to come back stronger in next year’s tournament.
The Rebels played a majority of their games at Salt River Fields. Their second game against the Shiprock Angels set them back. They had the opportunity to win, but the Angels made one more run than the Rebels did to win the game.
Double-A Baseball Pool Play Results
Salt River Rebels 8, Chinle Jayhawks 11
Salt River Rebels 6, Shiprock Angels 7
Salt River Rebels 0, Rock Cats 0
By Sheila Begay
The Mesa Indians are no newbies to the D-Backs Annual Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament. The team, coached by JRay and Sanford Cooper, gave it their all in 12 innings and falling short by one point, winning second place in this year’s tournament. It was not quite the title they were hoping for, but they gave it their all.
The team consists of four Community members: Aaron Makil, Eric Makil, Eliase De La Cruz and Arnold “Zookie” Thomas. This is Aaron Makil’s last year participating in the tournament before he goes on to play baseball for Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
The team’s two all tourney awards went to Charlie Cano and Mark Dominguez.
The Mesa Indians glided through the first four games in the triple-elimination tournament at Salt River Fields. The last game was more competitive, and they eventually fell short in the championship game against the Oklahoma Natives.
Triple-A Baseball Pool Play Results
Mesa Indians 14, Arizona DinéDiamondbacks 0
Mesa Indians 10, Cardinals 0
Mesa Indians 4, Native Domination 0
Triple A Baseball Division Championship Bracket
Mesa Indians 12, Wah 2
Mesa Indians 5, Oklahoma Natives 4
Salt River Woodstock
By Dalton Walker
For one of the youngest Salt River youth baseball teams to play in the 18th Annual D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Invitational, the end result wasn’t as important as the in-game experience.
The Salt River Woodstock finished 0-3 in single-A pool play in the June baseball invitational. Of the three divisions, single-A had the youngest group of players, ages 9 to 12. The Woodstock players were mostly 9 and 10 years old, coach Dallin Wood said.
“We enjoyed every minute of being there,” Wood said. “They never quit and they played hard every game.”
After being held to one run in two games against two New Mexico teams, the Woodstock scored eight runs against the California Indians but lost by two. Pool play was June 8-10, and most games were played at Salt River Recreation ball fields. All teams played at least three games.
Wood, who has coached for 13 years, said his young team is already excited about next year’s invitational. The team competes in a local league most of the summer and other tournaments with the same roster.
“We have a pretty good group,” Wood said. “They want to come back next year and play 10 times better.”
Single-A Baseball Pool Play Results
Shiprock Angels 14, Salt River Woodstock 0
Farmington Expos 11, Salt River Woodstock 1
California Indians 10, Salt River Woodstock 8