In keeping with a summer tradition in the Okanagan, teams came from far and wide to play baseball and soak up the sun last weekend at the annual Valley of Champions tournament.
Sixty-six teams, including 51 from out of town, converged on Kelowna and West Kelowna to compete in the 11U to 18U divisions.
Now 16 years after its inception, tournament director Todd Russell said the VOC is proving as popular as ever.
“The trend we’re seeing is that after we open up registration on January 1, usually by mid-February we’re 75 to 80 per cent booked, some divisions are right full,” said Russell. “A lot of out-of-town teams feel it’s a great opportunity to bond and play some good baseball. There aren’t a lot tournaments in the summer that run from the 11U to 18U age groups, so that’s another reason it’s a popular draw.”
In past years, the tournament was just too far away for some teams to justify making the trip but that, too, is changing. It’s no longer out of the ordinary to see clubs making the journey from Vancouver Island.
“We now get teams from Victoria, they come because they’ve heard the tournament is great and they can’t wait to get here,” Russell added. “We treat the teams well, it’s a great weekend for them and their families. It comes two weeks before provincials, so it’s a great opportunity for teams to work on things and tune up.”
As always some of the proceeds from entrance fees to VOC go back into minor baseball in the Central Okanagan, including for coaching development and umpire training.
There are currently more than 1,200 players—including 840 in Kelowna—registered in minor baseball in the Central Okanagan.
Meanwhile, the West Kelowna Dbacks were the lone local team to win their division at VOC, capturing the 18U (midget) for the fourth straight year.
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