Twenty years have now passed since the first Boulder Louisville Slugger Independence Day Tournament, but the ideals behind the event still remain the same.
That's why it's pretty easy to understand how the renowned annual competitive softball event fills up quicker than you can say 'Mizuno'.
"Colorado is a good place to be at this time of year if you're a college coach or a player," said tournament director Dan Burns. "Teams come here knowing they can get in 12 to 15 games over the course of the week, and we'll have 350 to 400 college coaches check in at the tournament to watch these kids play.
"The college coaches plan to come to Colorado because there are a couple other tournaments around, too. But this is a good showcase of talent."
The Boulder IDT, which starts Wednesday, has been a staple stop for top fastpitch programs from all over the country, and Burns said this year 216 teams will be representing 34 states. That includes the Colorado Stars program, which will be out in full force.
Burns, and everyone he works with to help put together four age-group tournaments from 18U down to 14U, have always tried to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to helping maximize the exposure to colleges that the student-athletes get during their stay in Boulder.
And yes, the college recruiting game has changed drastically over the years. One still cannot sign a letter of intent until they are a high school senior, but more and more softball players are giving verbal commitments at earlier ages.
"The players have taken on a lot of the work by contacting coaches of schools they want to attend and letting them know when and where they are playing. When you get girls going out of their way to e-mail a coach and give them that information, typically that coach is going to try and watch you a couple of times here," Burns said. "With the number of players out there, the coaches are interested in the girls that are interested in their school, rather than coming out here and recruiting per se."
The increasing interest in commitments from younger players is part of the reason the IDT expanded to have a 14U tournament last year. This year's 14U tournament will consist of 48 teams and will be played in Broomfield.
Three other team pools will play out in Boulder (18U), Louisville (18U) and Longmont (16U). The 18U Boulder tournament, an 80-team field, is still the one all teams aim to be a part of. The bottom 17 teams in the Boulder tournament and the top 17 teams in the 18U Louisville tournament switch places the following year.
All teams are guaranteed seven games, six of those in pool play between Wednesday and Friday. Every team will be placed in bracket play on Saturday, culminating in Sunday's 1 p.m. championship games at the Stazio Ballfields.