Little league baseball is a sure sign of summer. The ping of aluminum bats and the smacking sound of baseballs hitting leather gloves could be heard throughout Town Park Tuesday as the second day of the Telluride Baseball Festival camp commenced.
Ryan Dyer, festival founder and Arizona high school baseball coach, explained how he attended summer baseball camp in Telluride during the 1980s, which ultimately led him to starting the current festival.
“I fell in love with everything that is Telluride,” he said.
After several years without a baseball camp of any kind, Dyer saw an opportunity to create the Telluride Baseball Festival and accompanying wood bat tournament in 2008.
“It’s the perfect spot for families and kids to get together and do everything. Baseball is the medium that gets everybody up here,” he said. “This region is so special with the things you can do as a family, whether it’s a river rafting trip, mountain bike ride or hiking up in Mountain Village.
“It slows everything down for everybody, especially being in the hectic circle of the club baseball world. It brings you together for the love of the game and to enjoy each other’s company. There’s no better place than Telluride in the world to do that.”
This year there are 125 total campers participating in the baseball and softball clinics that started Monday and run through Thursday. The tournament this weekend will feature 35 teams from around the country. Participants learn the fundamentals of the game — offense, defense, pitching, hitting and catching — from a team of coaches that includes former MLB player Mark Bellhorn this year. Bellhorn, who played 10 years in the majors for several teams, was the starting second baseman for the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox squad that broke the Curse of the Bambino in winning Boston’s first World Series since 1918. Dyer, who won back-to-back state championships in 2010 and 2011 at Arizona’s Saguaro High School and is now the head coach of Desert Mountain, said camp coaches offer up their knowledge of the game, but it’s all about having fun.
“Our goal is to make sure the kids have the time of their lives,” he said. “We have some of the best coaches in the country here teaching them the fundamentals.”
Danny Preble, head coach of Arizona’s Salpointe Catholic who guided his team to the school’s first state championship in May, has been involved with the Telluride Baseball Festival for the past six years.
“Ryan forces me to come up here and have a good time,” he said jokingly, before adding, “It’s a great environment for the kids. To play baseball in this setting is like nothing I’ve ever been a part of.”
Preble and Dyer agreed that it’s great to see players and their families around town sporting their uniforms. After all, as Preble explained, most people played little league growing up.
“Little league is where everything started. At some point, 95 percent of everybody played little league baseball,” he said. “It’s where you made your first buddies and had something to talk about in school.”
Dyer encouraged the community to come out to the Southwest Wood Bat Classic's Telluride Mountain Classic Baseball Tournament, which will be played at Town Park, Down Valley Park and Norwood High School starting Thursday. The tournament features four divisions — 13 and under, 14 and under, futures, and high school.
“We always love to have people come out and support us,” he said.
A full schedule can be found online at telluridebaseballcamp.com.
While baseball is the focus this week, Dyer is looking forward to experiencing the outdoors as well.
“It’s just the ultimate family baseball vacation,” he said.