La Cañada tournament's a Smash

Each year the La Cañada Summer Smash — the sixth annual weekend-long baseball tournament — has grown, but tournament director Jack Johnson said this is the last year that's the case.

Johnson has seen the tournament, which included just five teams when it began in 2006, grow again this year by an estimated 25%. There were around 50 teams, which was 10 more than 2011, and 600 kids that competed across five different age divisions (7, 9, 10, 11 and 12) from Friday to today in La Cañada.

The Summer Smash, which included eight La Cañada teams, also spread its wings outside of La Cañada, as the tournament took place at La Crescenta's Two Strike Park and Montrose Park in Glendale as well as all the available baseball fields in La Cañada.

"This is kind of it," Johnson said of the tournament's growth. "We don't want to go too far away from our hub of La Cañada. We don't want to grow beyond here just make it run smoother."

Johnson said he hopes the tournament will one day have "regulars" where certain cities send multiple teams out to compete across several age divisions.

"We would like to see the same teams come back every year," Johnson said. "A couple cities are sending five teams each and that's what we like to see."

The La Cañada Summer Smash could have experienced even more growth this year, but it was the second year in a row the La Cañada Baseball and Softball Assn., which hosts the tournament, turned teams away to stay compact.

"I think it's a popular tournament because it's a true all-star tournament," Johnson said. "We also spend a lot of money and time on the fields and that's a big, big draw. A lot of cities don't keep up with or have as nice fields as we do. We've spent $40,000 over the past two years on upgrades on the fields."

Craig Gropper, a team parent and assistant coach for the La Cañada Bronco-12 squad, got his first taste of the Summer Smash and tournament baseball this year.

"It's nice to be able to have such a big function right here at home so we have more friends and family involved," Gropper said. "It's a long tournament season and there's a lot of these so it's nice to be able to stay home for this one. Convenience-wise, it's nice to not have to go out to Irvine or the Inland Empire — we are at home this time."

The eight La Cañada teams weren't content simply showing up, though, after the host town was held without a division winner last year.

"It was unusual [not having a La Cañada team win it], normally across one division maybe one or two will win one of the divisions," Johnson said, "but we don't set our schedules up to help us win the tournament. We try to make it a fun tournament for everyone."

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