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Youth baseball tournament boasts 81 teams in 9 divisions

Craig Richie is stressed, yet he prefers to remain positive. Richie said helping organize the God Bless America baseball tournament each June is worth the anxiety. "It's a good stress," he said. The fifth annual tournament, hosted by the Christia...

Craig Richie is stressed, yet he prefers to remain positive.

Richie said helping organize the God Bless America baseball tournament each June is worth the anxiety.

"It's a good stress," he said.

The fifth annual tournament, hosted by the Christian Sports Coalition of Fargo, begins Friday with 81 teams in nine age divisions.

The event drew more than 100 teams last year, but Richie said tournament officials this year made the decision to limit the number of teams.

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"That was too many," Richie said. "We decided we'll cut back."

Despite lower numbers, Richie remains enthusiastic about the large youth baseball tournament.

"We have a tendency to think that because it's Fargo it can't be the biggest or the best, but it is," Richie said.

The American Legion divisions will boast some of the top talent in the upper Midwest, Canada and one of the most prominent teams in the South.

The Bryan Packers, which won the American Legion World Series in 2002, will travel from West Point, Miss., to compete in the Legion-A division.

Packers coach Frank Portera said the team is eager to play teams they would have likely never faced under normal circumstances.

"We knew the Dakotas has strong players. Some great ballplayers have come out of that area," Portera said. "We knew we were going to get some good competition and good baseball."

Richie said in the six divisions for players ages 15 or younger, there will be no select teams.

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Players in those age groups must be on the team prior to the tournament. However, their teams will be able to bring one or two guest players to add depth.

"My wife said, 'Christ didn't pick all-star teams,' " said Richie, who is set on keeping the tournament's religious image.

Although water from the Red River is slowly creeping toward the Jack Williams Stadium outfield, tournament officials are confident Mother Nature will cooperate and allow the tournaments to go on as planned.

They might be in for some good luck, too.

Weather forecasts have already predicted sunny skies, highs in the low 80s and few chances of rain this weekend.

"We're praying and believing for good weather," Richie said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dustin Monke at (701) 241-5549

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