Dan Burns can do the math quite quickly after all these years. The number of teams that comprise the Boulder Independence Day fastpitch softball tournament is an easy one — 216 teams flock to the area for four tournaments under the IDT umbrella, with squads taking over the hotels in Longmont and all along the Highway 36 corridor.
Yes, the tournament shares the same week in Colorado as the Sparkler and Fireworks tournaments hosted by Triple Crown (chalk up another 900 teams playing in Denver and surrounding areas up until Sunday). But the tournaments have never really competed against each other and to be perfectly honest, Burns sees it as an excellent opportunity for college coaches to double-dip with recruiting efforts.
In essence, club softball for individual players is about getting seen, and for teams it’s about building reputation. And for more than 20 years, being placed in the Boulder IDT has fulfilled both ends of that for solid players and reputable organizations. Looking at this year’s list of competitors, one recognizes many of the same quality clubs that nurtured the growth of players who may have appeared at the College Softball World Series just a couple weeks ago, teams like the Corona Angels, OC Batbusters, Beverly Bandits and SoCal A’s. The list goes on and on.
Many of these clubs are expanding their operations into different states, and a lot of it has to do with the reputation built by winning tournaments like the Boulder IDT — which is widely known as one of the country’s premier fastpitch tournaments.
“We’ve had tremendous support from some of those premier teams since the beginning … and nature of the game now is those organizations are expanding to different states,” Burns said Monday night as he was putting the final touches on this year’s off-field gatherings. “I’m a pretty loyal guy so I am more than happy to have them back. It’s a good group and in a lot of ways it’s a family reunion kind of feel to it.
“But having good quality teams has really been the impetus for having college coaches come here and want to see these girls come and compete. The support of the college coaches is of course a big part of this tournament and we’ll typically see 300 coaches come to observe.”
About the only things that can keep Burns from smiling these days are thunderstorm clouds. He enjoys putting on the tournament, because it is competitive, it acts as the main fundraiser for the Colorado Stars and he also sees what it does for the local economy. Which is where Burns can get back to throwing numbers around.
“The businesses love it … I mean, they’re here for a week,” he said. “If you’re just looking at the Boulder tournament, you’ve got 80 teams, and there’s probably 20 kids a team and 20 adults a team or so, so you’ve got 3,000 people in town for a week on vacation. They’re playing softball but they’re also doing everything else. The impact on the city is unbelievable. Longmont and Broomfield, I know it’s similar, and the people with the cities do a phenomenal job getting the fields ready, too.”
As has been the case since its inception, Boulder is the premier bracket loaded with 80 top 18U teams and they’ll be making the Stazio Complex and the Mapleton Fields their temporary home fields starting Wednesday morning. In Lousville, another 32-team bracket is played at the 18U level, while the 56-team 16U tournament is played in Longmont and the 14U tournament is featured in Broomfield — the latter boasting 48 teams. Pool play drives the action the first three days until brackets are established for Saturday and Sunday. Teams are guaranteed seven games, and Burns emphasized the pool play is a lot of ‘strength against strength’ in order to foster better play all around.
It’s a format that’s desirable for all involved. Pool play generally sees teams employ all their players in order to be seen by college coaches, while the bracket play is when the best of the best truly shine. All championship games are played at the Stazio Complex on Sunday afternoon. All of last year’s championship teams — the 18U OC Batbusters-Stith, the 18U PA Strikers Premier (Louisville winners now in the Boulder bracket), the 16U Atlanta Vipers and the 14U Corona Angels-Marty — are all returning trying to defend titles.
Scores throughout the five days of play can be found through tourneymachine.com.