The National Club Baseball Association Division 2 World Series has begun in Alton. Eight top regional teams are competing for the title at Tuesday's game.
The Division 2 World Series started Friday and ran throughout the weekend. All games were played at Lloyd Hopkins Field, located in Alton’s Gordon Moore Park.
The city is hosting this tournament for the first time, but there's more to come - in a few short days, the National Club Baseball Association Division 1 World Series (NCBA Division 1) will be held at the same venue, beginning May 26 and lasting through June 1.
What is club baseball exactly? What is club baseball?
Club baseball does not offer athletic scholarships, nor do they recruit. If there are coaches, they are all unpaid. There are still tryouts for the team and the level is extremely competitive.
The same goes for the efforts made to secure tournaments.
Hopkins Field is home to the Alton River Dragons, a team in the Collegiate Prospect League. The facility hosts numerous local high school and college teams. The facility hosted its first NCAA postseason event with the NCAA Division 3 Baseball Regional last year.
On Saturday, NCBA officials said that they were pleased with Hopkins Field as well as the Alton community.
Eric Curitore is Vice President of NCBA's Baseball Operations. He said, "We are thrilled to have the chance to host a world-class event for our teams in a facility that has all the resources available to us." The ability to secure an excellent facility located in the middle of the U.S., within 20 minutes from a major international airport, is the icing on top.
Alton River Dragons are a college baseball team that allows players to play. Major League Baseball scouts sometimes watch the players. The team is pleased to welcome NCBA World Series in the Riverbend region.
This is bigger than the River Dragons. Dallas Martz said that a tournament between Division 2 and Division 1 this weekend, as well as next weekend, has an economic impact of $1.3 million on the region.
He added that bringing events such as this to the region would make a huge economic impact for the local community.
Martz stated that Division 2 had committed to returning to Alton for the next season and is in talks with Division 1 about doing the same.
Martz compared Alton with the city which hosts the College World Series.
The Riverbend Tourism Bureau, which works to bring events and visitors to Riverbend, is proud to announce the back-to-back Club Baseball World Series weekend.
Cory Jobe is the President and CEO of Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau. He said, 'Securing the Division 1 and Division 2 World Series for 2023 will be a major win for our region, for the city of Alton and for the Alton River Dragons.' Sports tourism is one the fastest-growing sectors of tourism and we're excited about the future growth of this industry in Southwest Illinois.
Stephen Vogl was a 21-year old player from Abington in Pennsylvania who played Saturday for the Temple University Owls.
We don't need a coach. Nobody really has to show up to practice. Vogl stated that they all played because of their love for baseball. We've got some guys who got hurt or played college baseball elsewhere and it didn't work.
He said, "Club baseball gives us a chance to continue playing baseball." "I had shoulder surgery two years ago and I can't throw as hard anymore. But I can still play club baseball. We are playing today and if we lose we will go home. Like many of the other players on my team, it could be my final baseball game.
Vogl liked Hopkins Field. He especially liked the turf, the seats and the announcers. Zachary Yousef, 22, a player for the University of Central Florida Knights from Orlando, Florida was a Hopkins Field fan and thought it would be a great place to host the Club Baseball World Series.
'I have always wanted to be a college baseball player, but now I want to become an engineer. Yousef explained that it was a difficult decision to make. But I'm enjoying myself here. We are a great team with excellent teammates and hope to return next year.
Eight Division 2 World Series participants are: University of New Hampshire Durham, Air Force Academy Colorado Springs, University of Central Florida Orlando, Temple University Philadelphia, Grand Canyon University Phoenix, University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, and Ohio State University Columbus. Grand Canyon University was the winner in 2022.
Many parents and friends cheered the teams on Saturday at Hopkins Field, including Tom Dougherty, a Jacksonville, Florida resident whose stepson is a University of Central Florida Knights player-coach.
Dougherty stated that the facility was beautiful and Alton did a wonderful thing for these children. It's a very special place and the kids will remember it for the rest of their life, as will we.
Dougherty stated that club baseball not only satisfies the desire of players to play, but also teaches them life lessons.
Dougherty stated that 'these kids raise money to sustain themselves and they don't receive scholarships to play in the school'. They do everything themselves. They raise the money and plan the trips. It's a very competitive sport.