Triple-Crown baseball returns to roots

For the past two weeks, Northwest Colorado has been inundated with baseball players from around the country for the Triple-Crown regional tournament and World Series.

While many residents of Moffat and Routt counties may think this is an obscure stop for a national baseball league, for the founder of the Triple-Crown, Dave King, it's like coming home.

"It is returning home for me, since I'm originally from Meeker," he said.

The home-grown boy from Rio Blanco County started Triple-Crown in 1982 as an adult slow-pitch softball league. The creation of the league was actually spurred by a bad tournament experience that King had.

"I had traveled to a small town in Colorado for a softball tournament. It turned out to be poorly run and I ended up talking to the guy who ran it," he said. "He and I had words, and it came down to him saying 'If you think you can do better, then make your own league,' so that's what I did."

Triple-Crown was born on King's four-hour return trip from the tournament, but at that time he had only envisioned a softball league.

Since then, Triple-Crown has grown to include baseball and fast-pitch softball, as well as the original slow-pitch league.

The teams who are now gracing the fields of Craig, Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Hayden are all after one thing a World Series title.

The title game will be played Sunday at the Howelsen Hill Complex in Steamboat Springs.

No local teams qualified for the tournament.

More than 252 teams from 20 states traveled here for the tournament, which is a good explanation for why there are so many cars with license plates from Texas, Missouri and California all with their windows soaped up with team slogans.

A noticeable difference can be seen in how the older players are made to adapt to high elevation baseball. There's no aluminum allowed, only wooden bats are allowed for players 16 years old and up.

"We incorporated the wooden bats because the region is at a high enough elevation and the fields are a little smaller," King said. "This prevents games with scores like 19-20."

For the many of the players and their parents, the Yampa Valley's climate is perfect for baseball.

A group of parents from Kansas City, Mo., made several comments about how Thursday's 90 degree weather didn't feel 90 degrees compared to their river climate.

This was another reason King decided to put the World Series in the Yampa Valley.

"You can't beat the weather up here. For many of the people who travel in for the tournament, it's almost like fall to them," he said. "Besides the weather, the whole area has a resort feel to it."

The Triple-Crown is the second-biggest source of tourist revenue for Steamboat Springs, next to the ski season, according to King.

"It's just a great tournament in a great area, and it seems like everyone who comes here has a good time," Triple-Crown Representative Dick Hewitt said.

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