by Justin Vick
The Baseball Players Association is bringing spring fever to Denver.
Beginning this month, the association is organizing tournaments for the East Lincoln Optimist Club’s 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-year-old challenge teams. The first tournament, dubbed Spring Fever, takes place April 16 and 17 at East Lincoln Optimist Park.
While the Baseball Players Association hosts a World Series that draws teams from across the country, it hasn’t organized tournaments in North Carolina since 2008. And the tournaments it has brought to North Carolina were in the eastern part of the state, like Eden and Wake Forest.
But in the next several months, the association has scheduled tournaments in Denver, Mooresville, Huntersville and Statesville. Why Lake Norman?
Deana Lyon, of the Baseball Players Association, said she talked to several coaches along the Interstate 77 corridor looking for tournaments that are closer to home. They grew tired of traveling to Charlotte or Gastonia to play more competitive teams.
“There’s nothing on this end of the region,” Lyon said. “They’d like some of those people to come this way.”
Doug McCurry, a commissioner with the East Lincoln Optimist Club, asked the Baseball Players Association if it could hold some tournaments in Denver.
“We wanted to cut down on some of the travel if we could get some of these tournaments at our facilities or closer by, instead of having to go to Matthews and Indian Trail,” McCurry said. “We thought that would be a benefit to our kids and parents.”
The East Lincoln Optimist Club began offering tryouts for challenge teams about five years ago.
“We were losing a lot of kids to tournament ball,” McCurry said. “So we thought we’d offer them an alternative, while still playing at a higher competition level. There’s a lot of kids who like to play at higher competitive levels, but tournament season is so long.”
The East Lincoln Optimist Club’s challenge team plays at least three tournaments on weekends not on the regular season recreation schedule.
Prior to a year ago, McCurry said Denver players had to travel to Cornelius – or Pineville and Matthews – to find batting cages. A general contractor by trade, he converted a vacant building into a 11,000-square-foot baseball-and-softball training facility called The Bat Cave.
“The need had been there a long time, but the circumstances with the downturn in the economy opened up the opportunity to transform the building,” McCurry said.
In fact, The Bat Cave is one of three new baseball-training facilities to open in the Denver and Mooresville areas in the past year.
Though Scott Garrett opened Triple Crown Baseball Softball and Golf Complex in November, the Denver native had planned to build an indoor baseball training facility in his hometown for five years.
He had owned a similar business in Sarasota, Fla., where he wound up after playing minor league baseball for the Cincinnati Reds. Up until a few years ago, Garrett didn’t think Denver could support such a facility.
“Now, it’s almost to a point where baseball is year-round here,” said Garrett, a product of the East Lincoln Optimist Club and East Lincoln High School.
Garrett attributes baseball’s growth in the area to the real estate boom that brought an influx of newcomers to the region, as well as the success of programs at East and North Lincoln high schools.
Upcoming tournaments through August
The Baseball Players Association is offering the following tournaments through August in the Denver and Lake Norman areas. Register at www.playbpa.com.
• Spring Fever – April 16-17
• Memorial Day Bash – May 28-29
• June Heat – June 18-19
• Try NSA – April 2-3, Statesville
• NSA Spring Blast – April 16-17,
• Summer Slam – May 21-22, Mooresville
• Memorial Day Salute – May 28-29,
• Play One For Dad – June 18-19,
• Junebug – June 25-26, Huntersville
• Summer Heat – July 23-24, Huntersville
• Gone Batty – Aug. 6-7, Huntersville
• Summer Showdown – Aug. 20-21,
• Summer Blast – Aug. 20-21, Mooresville
Looking for a place to practice?
• Triple Crown Baseball, Softball, Golf is located at 7855 Plaza Drive, Denver. Details: 704-483-4545 or www.freewebs.com/triplecrownbsg/.
• The Bat Cave is located at 7677 Old Plank Road, Stanley. Details: 704-820-3196 or www.thebatcave.net.