“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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July 8, 2024

SRPMIC Well Represented in 2024 Arizona D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament

By Juan Ysaguirre and Chris Picciuolo

Every summer, youth all across the country leave the classroom behind for the baseball diamond. This includes the youth of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community who participated in the 24th annual D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament, held June 11-14. Games took place at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, the Salt River Recreation baseball fields, the Accelerated Learning Academy fields and the Salt River High School fields.

Nearly 75 teams entered this year’s tournament, including many from Salt River, with players ages 9-18 at all skill levels competing in single-A, double-A and triple-A divisions. The tournament once again featured the best experienced and up-and-coming baseball and softball athletes in Indian Country.

This year’s Salt River teams were AZ Sons (single-A), SR Sky Hawks (single-A), Desert Dingers (single-A), Native Clash (single-A), Sidewinders (single-A), AZ Heat (double-A), Desert Dingers (triple-A) and AZ Heat (triple-A). Each team played three games of pool play with the chance to advance to the semifinals and the championship.

The first official day of tournament play was Tuesday, June 11, when the single-A Desert Dingers battled against some tough competition from the Yankos Yaquis at the D3 field at Salt River Fields. Sadly, the bats never came alive for the Desert Dingers and the Yaquis secured a 0-6 shutout victory.

The next day, the Dingers eked out a victory against the 18U Naabaahii Dirtbags with a score of 8-7. The Dingers officially closed out their 2024 tournament pool play with a loss to the New Mexico Sundevils, 3-6, making their overall record 1-2.

Wednesday’s games were played under a scorching sun with little to no shade to cool off in. Luckily, SRPMIC Recreation handed out free popsicles for every returned foul ball. In the single-A division, the Sidewinders began the tournament at 7:30 a.m. against the San Juan Pitbulls. The Sidewinders lost the game 13-4, and they couldn’t take their tough opponents in the next two games, the White Mountain Apache Scouts and The Goat, finishing 0-3 in the tournament.

The Salt River Sky Hawks had a similar fate, losing their first game vs. NM Sundevils 8-0, and losing their last two games vs. NM Pack and Lil Natives, finishing 0-3 in the tournament.

Going undefeated in pool play, the Single-A Desert Dingers defeated the Chinle Jayhawks 6-2 in their first pool play game of the tournament. Cruising into their next game, the Dingers demolished the Gila Monsters 14-4. Their winning ways continued as they then defeated Empire with a score of 13-3.

When pool play concluded after Thursday’s games, only two Salt River teams remained, with one of the teams advancing to the championship game. In the single-A division, team AZ Sons went undefeated in pool play and went on to win the single-A division championship.

SRPMIC Well Represented in 2024 Arizona D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament
SRPMIC Well Represented in 2024 Arizona D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball Tournament

In the double-A division, AZ Heat played an instant-classic game against MBCI from Mississippi on Friday, June 14. The game went into extra innings to determine the winner, and it was during the top of the 7th that AZ Heat pulled out the win over the much older and taller MBCI baseball club.

AZ Heat advanced to the double-A championship game, where they would unfortunately came up just a few runs short, losing to the New Mexico Pack-Maroon team.

In the moments leading up to the first pitch of the championship game, Salt River Fire Chief Tsosie Wood and Council member Cheryl Doka tossed out the ceremonial first pitches, throwing strikes from the pitcher’s mound.

The triple-A AZ Heat team won their first game of the tournament 2-0 in a pitching duel vs. Hustle Gang Baseball. O’odham Action News was at their second game on Thursday, when they defeated the Hopi Hitters 25-1 thanks to a strong outing on the mound by Bobby Maez. AZ Heat lost their third and final game to Smash Bros, 6-2, and did not advance to the final bracket, finishing the tournament at 2-1.

With the high level of play that all the teams showcased throughout this year’s tournament, it is inevitable that these youth-athletes will one day be able to read their names in the Major League Baseball history books, just like Indigenous legends Jim Thorpe, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Helsley did before them.