By KEVIN WEAKS
No one from the Union City Cal Ripken leagues has to go searching for teams to play in Summer Slam any more.
A weekend tournament that concluded its 10th year on Sunday, the annual event has become a favorite for Ripken leagues throughout the region.
“It’s to the point now where we don’t have to work as hard to get teams here,” said John Rogers, vice president of the local youth baseball board that oversees the Ripken leagues. “They know that the second weekend in June is Summer Slam weekend, and people mark it on their calendars.”
Started 10 years ago by Bill Davis, the tournament is the major fundraiser for the local leagues. The event will bring in about $5,000 in gate fees, most of that money used to pay each umpire $30 per game.
“We have umpires who will work 13 games on one field and never come off the field,” Rogers said. “But, they’re used to it. They do it every weekend.”
There are also team fees of $150 each, and the league shares in the concessions as well
All the profits, Rogers says, go back into the league.
“This is a fundraising tournament for our league to survive,” he said. “We’ve built batting cages, bought scoreboards. We put the money back into the league for the kids so they can have better playing facilities.
“In our player fees that are paid up front each year, each child gets a uniform and all-star uniform. The only things the players have to buy are their socks, pants and the personal equipment, such as gloves, that they use. We provide all new helmets and catching equipment for any team that needs that because we really stress safety of the kids. Billy Cheatham does all our equipment now — he orders all the uniforms, hats, equipment and gets equipment repaired.”
The tournament is an invitational and played under Cal Ripken League rules. And, it serves as one of the big warm-up tournaments for the all-star postseason, which runs from the end of June through the end of July.
Reaching a high of 39 teams two years ago, the tourney hosted 32 teams in four age brackets this year. Eight teams played in the 6U bracket, 10 participated in 8U, and eight were in both the 10U and 12U fields. Games were played on six fields over three days, and all teams were guaranteed three games.
South Fulton, Martin, Greenfield, Bradford, North Gibson and the Kentucky communities of Hickman and Clinton were represented this year.
Those are just some of the reasons teams love coming to Union City every June. The Graham Park facility itself is a big draw as well.
“Everybody enjoys coming here because we have a great place to play,” Rogers said. “It’s shady, and the field conditions are great. The turf management group, Chris Crockett and all his people, do a great job of getting all our fields ready. We’re fortunate to have the facilities we have in Union City, and we want to thank everybody for their time and effort to keep this park the way it is. And, without the parents and volunteers, we couldn’t have this tournament.”
In true spirit of communities working together, Union City all-star teams will go off to tourneys in nearby towns as a “thank you” for their support of Summer Slam.
“We try to go to those because there are some communities that will bring as many as five teams to play here,” Rogers said. “So, we try to go back and return the favor by playing in their tournaments.”
Rogers said postseason play will bring in four more tournaments in July.
Published in The Messenger 6.10.13