The Ray Nelson hits four decades this weekend, and young people with gloves and bats in their hands are the ultimate winners.
Four Wood River Baseball and Softball Association youth baseball teams are among 29 Idaho squads in three divisions assembling in Hailey this weekend for the 40th annual Ray Nelson Invitational tournament Thursday through Saturday, July 8-9 at Nelson Field.
Tournament director Mike Brunker is excited to have two Wood River teams in the 12-U (12-and-under) "Majors" and one Wood River team in the 10-U "Minors", plus one Babe Ruth entry in the five-team 13-U division playing all of its games Friday and Saturday at Founders Field in Hailey.
Plans call for a double elimination format in the 12-team "Majors" and double elimination with consolation in the 12-team "Minors." Games begin Thursday, July 7 at 4 p.m. until dark, then pick up again Friday morning at 8 a.m. and continue through 7:30 p.m.
Saturday's action resumes at 8 a.m. with the "Majors" and "Minors" championship games later in the afternoon, and the 13-U finale at 3:30 p.m. Most games are on the three Nelson Field diamonds, but other games will be played in Woodside at Keefer Field and at Woodside Elementary School.
The family and player barbecue is Friday evening after the day's final game, at which time the Donnelley Sports Skills Challenge, for 12-U teams only, will be held.
It features competitions like outfield relay, around the horn, fastest around the bases and home run derby. Donnelley Sports and Smith Optics are providing a great list of prizes. A team can enter one representative only, per event.
The tourney started in 1972. It is named for Hailey baseball booster Ray Nelson, who bequeathed a love of the game to family members and friends before passing away in 1970.
Here are the participating teams plus rosters of Wood River squads:
13-year-old Division (13-U): Wood River, Northside, Boise, Treasure Valley and Idaho Falls. Wood River opens Friday at 8 a.m. vs. Northside.
"Majors" (12-U): Wood River Black, WR Green, Burley Cubs, Twin Falls Americans, Nampa Crusaders, Challis, Twin Falls Patriots, Mini-Cassia Braves, Meridian Woodchucks, Northside All-Stars, Nampa Blue and East Boise.
WR Black and WR Green both open their quest Thursday at 4 p.m., Black vs. Burley Cubs and Green vs. Challis.
Last year's 12-U winner was Nampa Blue (4-1 tournament record) by a 5-4 score over the Mini-Cassia Braves (5-2). Consolation champ was Nampa Red 3-2 over Northside Jerome.
"Minors" (10-U): Wood River White, Mini-Cassia Sluggers, Kuna Kardinals, Twin Falls Pioneers, Meridian Maniacs, Burley Rivercats, Rupert Rebels, Twin Falls Cowboys, Nampa 10-U All-Stars, Nampa 9-U All-Stars, Valley All-Stars and Northside All-Stars.
WR White plays its first game Thursday at 4 p.m. vs. Burley Rivercats.
Last year's 10-U winner was Twin Falls Pioneers (6-1 tournament record) by a 13-1 score over Wood River Green (4-2). Consolation champ was Northside Jerome 22-10 over Mini-Cassia 'Lil Spartans.
Wood River's 13-U team
WR: Coaches Billy Kramer and Juan Martinez. Players are Brandon Benson, Dylan Broman, Nelson Cantrell, Lane Felger, Gunner Gibson, Wyatt Johnson, Cooper Stone, Nic Tidwell, Reide Whitehead and Alec Nordsieck.
Wood River's 12-U teams
WR Black: Coaches Terry Wall and Brian Nelson. Players are Wilson Dunn, Jett Erickson, Owen Gifford, Christian Hovey, Brock Mary, Kyle Nelson, Zach Nelson, Raphie Rodriguez, Cade Schott, Keaton Wall and Colby Whitehead.
WR Green: Coaches Anthony Naghsh and Matt Buxton. Players are Jeron Bothwell, Alec Broman, Ike Buxton, Carson Gardner, Zack McStay, Tiernan Naghsh, Wyatt Parish, Elliott Portillo, Stephen Roth, Jack Stevens and Hunter Stewart.
Wood River's 10-U team
WR White: Coaches Matt Douthit and Scott Manning. Players are Jake Blackburn, James Cantrell, Hunter Diehl, Klayton Douthit, Conner Manning, Andrew Nelson, Blake Nelson, John Radford, Alexx Sanders, Huck Sprong and Jack Wojcik.