The regular season for most Rhode Island youth baseball organizations runs from early to mid April to early June. There are league and national organizational requirements for district, all-star, and national post season participation. A certain number of games must be played to qualify for these types of tournaments. In the 2019 Little League® rules book under “Tournament Rules and Guideline”, under the term “league eligibility” it reads “the league must have scheduled and played, at a minimum, a 12 game (per team) regular season…” So, rain and 40 degree temperatures and freezing cold pitching hands and (for some) less than average field conditions in April are not to be a deterrent to getting in a few games. All because 12 games have to be played in order to make the post season, all-star, district tournament a reality for your league. I know this because I have coached in Little League® in North Kingstown for the better part of a decade.
With that being said, the concept of Friendship tournaments was conceived to give the non-All Star, the player not selected to be on a district team, the player that was possibly overlooked more time to play baseball. These friendship tournaments, for the most part, do not allow All Star, District players to participate. (I’m on the fence about this rule) I have participated in Friendship tournaments for years, mostly because my baseball son would fall in the above mentioned category of non- All Star. He is a wonderful kid, a good baseball player, and just wanted to play past June 1. So, he played Friendship tournaments for North Kingstown Wickford Little League and had an absolute blast.
Hosting a friendship tournament in your league does several things. The obvious being it gets your league’s non-All Star, non-district players an opportunity to practice more and have a league bonding tournament experience. It gets them more baseball time when the weather in Rhode Island is more conducive to playing baseball. Practices can be scheduled, players can get more reps at third base, more batting tips, more pitching sessions leading up to a tournament. Most friendship tournaments have a minimum of 3 games to be played, so regardless of wins and losses, your team gets to play 3 games.
More importantly, hosting a friendship tournament brings players, families, coaches, and fans to your baseball field. Your baseball field where volunteers installed a new batting cage this season and you are so proud of their work. Your baseball field where the concession stand, in your league’s opinion, makes the best onion rings in the state. The new scoreboard that your league worked their tails off fundraising for and this year, the guys and gals of your league raised enough money and the new scoreboard looks amazing. It brings other towns into visit your town’s restaurants, boutiques, record stores, coffee shops, and town centers. It introduces coaches of like minds, who value and embrace the concept of the Friendship tournament together to pitch ideas and talk baseball. It introduces a player from Westerly to Little Compton, a player from North Kingstown to Coventry, a player from East Providence to South Kingstown, a player from Narragansett to Pawtucket. Kids meeting kids, parents meeting parents, coaches meeting coaches, families meeting families.
I realize that is not so simple as write an article and everyone will now host a tournament this summer, or next. Ask the team who run the Urwin Tournament in Coventry or the St. Gregg’s in Warwick or the U9 Tournament in Cranston Western. They start planning in the fall for a summer tournament. You have to line up sponsors, concession stand workers, umpires, who pays for what, how much the tournament will cost, what to charge leagues, who will rake the field, who will score the games, who will email the coaches on a rain out situation, etc. There is a ton of planning and I commend all the volunteers and league officials who can pull off these tournaments every year, seemingly with ease.
I am just saying it would awesome to have a full, Friendship tournament calendar schedule to post on this page someday. Have you ever been to Slater Park or Acotes Field or Adamsville Field or Trombino Field? I have and each field is 100% deserving of an awesome tournament for kids to play an extended season of baseball. Baseball in the summer months includes the following perks – sunny skies, green grass, more fans in the stands than in their cars with the heater on, and the list goes on and on. Stay tuned to the RIBBE and my social media pages for a complete list of Friendship Tournaments and their locations this summer. And if you are hosting a summer tournament, send me the details and I will promote it to my Rhode Island Baseball Experience community.