Event fills local niche

The elementary schools of La Cañada are bound to be peaceful and almost deserted now that school has let out and summer is in full-swing, right? Wrong.

The La Cañada Summer Smash is being hosted Friday through Sunday. The La Cañada Junior Baseball and Softball Assns. host the event in order for small cities like La Cañada to compete against comparable, competitive opponents from communities of similar size.

"The smaller communities, especially in La Cañada, don't usually have an opportunity to play against cities of similar size," tournament Director Jack Johnson said. "This is a chance for them to play against other Pony type leagues."

Ironically, the Summer Smash, a tournament appealing to smaller markets, has been growing.

"It all started with one or two age groups," Johnson said. "Last year, we took it to the next level and we are looking to take it to the next level this year as we're becoming web-based. Teams can register online and people can check the results online."

Johnson also said the secondary goal of the tournament is to generate commerce for the community during the slow summer month of June. He said organizers expect close to 3,000 people come to the city for the three-day tournament.

"In between games, teams are looking for restaurants to eat at and places to hang out because they spend the whole day in the community," LCBSA Tournament Team Director Eric Heer said. "We try to partner up some of the local vendors with the teams who come into the community so they get some exposure and service."

Forty to 50 teams from 29 cities like Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, Simi Valley and Westlake will be coming into La Cañada to play baseball. There are several divisions based on age, ranging from 7-12. Each division contains five to eight teams that will compete to win a divisional championship.

Although Summer Smash is expanding, organizers are making sure they don't lose sight of their original mission.

"We are sort of maxing out with how much larger we can get," Heer said. "The constraints we face are the field space available to us in La Cañada. We are at the point where we are maturing, we may be able to add a few teams here and there but we are kind stuck where we are. "

By the end of Sunday, the tournament will have hosted approximately 150 games. Championship games take place on Sunday and the first and second-place teams will be awarded trophies. In addition, each every participant will receive a medal.

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