By Arianna Pickard
The Moore American
MOORE — A national high school baseball tournament in Norman is looking for volunteers to house out-of-town players June 17-22 and is holding a silent auction to fund tornado relief.
The Heartland Classic Baseball Tournament is unique to other tournaments because instead of making the players stay at hotels while they’re in Norman, area residents open their homes to let them eat and sleep there until it’s over, said Jud Foster, director of Norman Parks and Recreation and vice president of the tournament.
However, about 10 to 12 players are still in need of host families.
“Our biggest challenge continues to be finding enough housing for the players,” tourney president Sherri Rogers said. “The reason that we have found through all the years of hosting is that as families children grow-up and away from baseball, we have to find replacements. With that said though, we have a great core group of families that continue year after year to host and they really do enjoy it.”
The tournament takes all-star high school baseball players from all over the country to compete against each other, said Foster, who has let players stay at his house before. He said it’s a great experience to be able to interact with young baseball players who might go on to play professionally, and it’s also great for the players to be able to adopt a family for a few days.
“It’s a great display for local residents from Oklahoma City and Norman who want to watch high-quality baseball,” Foster said.
The tournament will take place this year at Norman High School, Norman North High School and Southmoore High School, he said. The opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. Monday at Southmoore High , followed by the games beginning at noon on Tuesday and running through Thursday. Games are free and open to the public.
The tournament will also provide an opportunity to offer support to people who lost their homes or possessions in the recent tornadoes, said Roy Hamilton, tournament volunteer.
Many of the student athletes attending Southmoore High School, mostly football players, lost their homes in the E-F5 tornado that struck Moore, Foster said.
Tournament officials are gathering items for a silent auction to raise money to help these students, and the auction will be held during the opening ceremonies on Monday, June 17, Hamilton said. Tournament officials are still looking for items to be donated for the auction, such as signed baseballs, pictures, jerseys, etc.
“The board met and decided to put together a silent auction to be held during the opening ceremonies and will run throughout the tournament which will feature sports memorabilia and other great items,” Rogers said.
“Funds raised will go to the high school athletic fund. We have spoken with our teams coming to play and they are pitching in with auction items as well. Team Maryland and Team Ohiosre bringing donation checks as their schools hosted fundraisers. One of the assistant coaches for Maryland, Ty Whitaker helped organize a school supply campaign and teachers are driving to Oklahoma during the tournament to bring their donation. Also, on Monday night during the Opening Ceremonies, all players in the tournament are going to be part of a special presentation for tornado victims.”