Tourney continues to grow

Five years ago, five Little League baseball teams got together to compete in a friendly tournament. This small gathering has morphed into what has become the wildly popular La Cañada Summer Smash.

"They played their tournament and had a barbeque in the first year and people told us, 'You guys should do this every year,' " said John Caire, one of the Summer Smash directors. "It's sort of grown into this thing where people call us in the beginning of the year to make sure we're doing it again."

The youth baseball tournament, which is hosted by the La Cañada Baseball and Softball Assn., has become an annual fixture in La Cañada. This year, approximately 40 baseball teams packed baseball fields all over La Cañada, from Friday evening to all day Saturday and Sunday, to compete in the La Cañada Summer Smash for the event's fifth installment.

In fact, the Summer Smash has gotten so big that teams were turned away this year due to limited field space, Caire said.

"If we had more fields we'd do more games," Caire said.

La Cañada didn't walk away with any division titles this year. The Toluca Lake Titans won the Bronco-12 Division, a La Crescenta squad won the Bronco-11 Division, Torrance teams won the Mustang-10 and Mustang-9 Division and Simi Valley captured the Pinto-7 title.

About 15 cities send at least one all-star team to compete in the Summer Smash, which catered to five different age divisions (7, 9, 10, 11 and 12). Jack Johnson, the other tournament director, estimates about 400 families and 1,500 people flock to La Cañada during the weekend for the tournament games this year.

"It gives us the chance to showcase what a small town can do when they work together," said Johnson, who's been directing the tournament with Caire for the past three years. "We can show what we've done here and people can see we're committed to having a high-quality rec league."

Caire says a lot of people come for the tournament and end up visiting La Cañada for the first time.

"A lot of people don't know about La Cañada and they come here and are surprised about what a great town we have," Caire said. "It's good PR for the city and it's worked out great for us."

As big as the tournament's grown, it's not straying from their roots. The primary concern is to provide the players with a good time. The players receive participation medals, and trophies are given to first-place and runner-up teams.

"This tournament is for player development, but players don't get better unless they're having fun, so we make sure this a very fun and safe tournament," Johnson said.

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