La Cañada Summer Smash shrinks into town

After some strong growth a year ago, the La Cañada Summer Smash Little League baseball tournament will shrink this year.

That's just fine with Summer Smash Tournament Director Jack Johnson.

"I think it is really a local boutique, niche community tournament and we're going to keep it that way again this year," said Johnson, who's in his fifth year as the tournament director. "We really don't want this to be a major event."

Last year, the tournament hosted 48 teams — 10 more than 2011 — and Johnson said there will be 45 teams on deck this season. It has allowed the event, which expanded into Altadena, La Crescenta and Montrose in 2012, to stay closer to its home base with just some games scheduled at Montrose Park.

"It's not what we wanted, it was always supposed to be a small-town tournament," La Cañada Baseball and Softball Assn. Vice President of Baseball Operations Walter Calmette said. "It was really no longer a La Cañada tournament, it became more of a Foothill tournament.

"Maybe we just thought more was better but afterward we realized sometimes less is more."

As usual, there are six age divisions — Pinto 7 and 8, Mustang 9 and 10 and Bronco 11 and 12 — with a La Cañada Spartans team in each bracket set to compete in the tournament, which is put on by the La Cañada Baseball and Softball Assn.

The three-day event runs from Friday to Sunday and includes teams from La Crescenta, San Marino, Torrance, Toluca Lake, Redondo Beach and Pacific Palisades. Action gets underway Friday at 5 p.m., as tournament host La Cañada hosts San Marino for a Bronco 11 division game.

While there aren't many changes to speak of in the seventh year of the event, that's what makes it great in Calmette and Johnson's eyes. The tournament directors have opened their doors to communities in a similar size and competitiveness to La Cañada.

"We craft this thing for smaller teams and don't allow club teams in," Calmette said. "We've pretty much stuck to that formula since the beginning. We like the tournament we have and we're going to stick with it for the foreseeable future."

While the focus will be on the diamond this weekend, there's an off-the-field benefit the tournament brings to town by creating some commerce for the business owners during the summer.

"You think about this time of the year in La Cañada, a lot of people do leave town," Johnson said. "School is out, all these families are away and all of a sudden you have people flocking into town. Twelve-year-old boys can generally eat a lot."

After not producing a division winner last year, which was surprising to Calmette, the locals will look to bounce back this time around.

"I think part of the reason may have been that we got so big," he said. "When we play similar-sized communities we hold our own. ... My hopes are the highest for our 9-year olds this year."

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