The memories are plentiful:
• Albert Pujols’ mammoth, scoreboard-clearing home run when the former St. Louis Cardinals three-time MVP was starring for Hi-Boy Drive In Post 340.
• Future “American Idol” winner and Blue Springs Post 499 Fike pitcher David Cook singing the national anthem, while still playing for Jim Moran's squad.
• The memorable performances of present-day major leaguers Nick Tepesch (Texas Rangers) and Kris Johnson (Minnesota Twins), when they ruled the mound for Blue Springs Rod’s Sports Athletics.
• Seeing former St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson in the stands, as he watched his grandson play for a team from Omaha, Neb.
• The rain delays, the early-morning games at Pink Hill Park and the rare occasions when a hometown team comes away with a championship in the 26th annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational, which begins Wednesday at area parks, including the home base of Hidden Valley Park in Blue Springs.
What memories will be made this year?
We will find out soon, as the 30-team tournament begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Hidden Valley, Blue Springs and Blue Springs South high schools and the Independence Athletic Complex, with the opening ceremonies beginning at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Hidden Valley's Jim Moran Field.
The field, which has been as large as 48 teams in the past, had dropped to 25 teams last year, but is back up to a manageable 30 teams, that make it easier to put together competitive brackets.
“It’s going to be a great tournament,” said Moran, the tournament director and the Fike manager. “We had the junior (wood bat) tournament right before the big tournament this weekend. It’s all like clockwork. We’ve been doing this a long time, and with all the great help I’ve got, I feel like we’re ready to go.”
Moran has ordered his 100 dozen baseballs – enough for the two tournaments for the next two seasons – and will have more than 500 Hoosier bats for the teams to use.
“I have so much help, I have to think for a minute about how many bats and baseballs we order,” he admitted. “I get way too much credit for this tournament. Everyone involved should get equal credit because everyone makes a contribution to its success.”
Fike begins its tournament at 4 p.m. Wednesday with an American League Orange Division pool play game against the Independence VFW Post 1000 Bears. The Blue Springs A's open at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Blue Springs High School against St. Joseph Post 11 in a National League Green Division game. Independence Post 21 meets Warrensburg Post 131 at 4 p.m. at the Independence Athletic Complex, and the Lee's Summit Hawthorn Bank Outlaws open against Leavenworth (Kan.) Geiger Redi-Mix at 11 a.m. at Hidden Valley Field 3.