The 2023 Men’s Senior AAA National Baseball Championships are finally here.
On Wednesday night at Great Chief Park the tournament committee celebrated the opening ceremonies to kick off four days of baseball in Red Deer.
All 10 teams involved, including the Red Deer Riggers, were in attendance sporting their province’s flag as organizers addressed the crowd ahead of the home run derby.
Tournament chair Tom DeRuyter said it’s a huge relief that the Nationals have arrived.
“It’s been a fairly big build-up as the last couple of weeks every day you think you’ve got it covered and then there’s a new list of things that come up,” he said.
“Both my wife and I probably had our best night’s sleep last night knowing that everything’s done.”
DeRuyter explained a committee of 12 people helped make this all possible. Their journey to host Nationals came years ago which started with an application.
Once the Riggers were awarded the tournament, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and delayed the process. Once the world shut down, it pushed back everyone’s host year back a year.
However, Red Deer’s time to shine is here now and organizers couldn’t be more excited.
“The game of baseball is growing very strong in the area and it’s grown from the grassroots all the way through to competitive levels,” he said.
“Now we’ve got the Sylvan Lake Gulls up the highway which really elevated the interest in baseball in central Alberta.
“For the Red Deer Riggers to remind everybody that when your competitive college-aged level is over there’s still very good baseball out there and people are going to see that here today.”
They’re hoping for large crowds at Great Chief Park through the weekend and DeRuyter added that ideal weather through to Sunday should bring the people out.
Baseball Canada representative Jon Oko explained Red Deer is a great host because they’re not only well prepared but they’ve also held national baseball championships in the past.
“Tom and his crew have done everything to get this prepared and this is one of our 11 national championships. It’s the one I think everyone really focuses on because it is good calibre baseball,” he said.
“You see a bunch of players from across the country that played baseball for years that have been to other national events. It’s kind of our high-profile tournament so it feels great to get this going.”
The tournament begins on Thursday morning at 10 a.m. and will have games on both fields throughout the day until the gold medal game on Sunday. The Red Deer Riggers will play their first game on Thursday night at 7 p.m. against Ontario.