La Cañada's Summer Smash baseball tournament strikes a balance

For the second year in a row, the La Cañada Summer Smash didn't produce an in-town victor, but that's not to say the seventh annual baseball tournament wasn't successful.

Already expecting a drop from 45 teams in 2012, the Summer Smash was cut down by 10 more teams than originally estimated when all teams reported in this year. Without a Pinto 7 bracket, 35 teams competed across six divisions in La Cañada Friday through Sunday.

"At the end of the day, 35 for this community is about the right amount of teams," said Summer Smash Tournament Director Jack Johnson, adding this year could serve as a model for years to come.

La Cañada Baseball and Softball Assn. Vice President of Baseball Operations Walter Calmette said the drop in teams kept the tournament from straying too far out of town and from its original mission.

"There's less headaches and it makes things a whole lot easier," said Calmette, whose organization puts on the tournament and had to play games in Altadena last year. "I think we only had a couple games at Montrose Park this year."

Johnson said the team may grow by another five to six teams next year with a Pinto 7 bracket, but he feels this year was a good sample size.

"Going forward, we will probably limit it to six to eight teams per division," he said. "It's a much more manageable amount of teams, that's probably the right size for this community. Otherwise you have to go and get fields outside of La Cañada."

While La Cañada didn't have a team win its bracket, Calmette's pick to perform best before the tournament began — the La Cañada Spartan Mustang 9 team — did just that. While it didn't advance to the championship, it posted a perfect 3-0 record with two dramatic wins. It opened with a 13-3 win over La Crescenta Friday and posted one-run victories over Palisades, 13-12, and in a rematch with La Crescenta, 7-6, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Neighboring La Crescenta and Torrance produced two winners in the Bronco 12, Mustang 10 and Bronco 11, Pinto 8A division, respectively. Toluca Lake and San Marino won the Mustang 9 and Pinto 8B divisions, respectively.

Despite shrinking a bit, Johnson said the event also raised an estimated $6,000 for the La Cañada Baseball and Softball Assn., which is right around its average. A large portion of that fund will go toward sending the organization's 12-and-under baseball team to Cooperstown, N.Y. at the end of July.

With a formula for how the Summer Smash will run in the future, Johnson is confident he'll see many of the teams that competed this year back in La Cañada in 2014.

"We consistently have filled this tournament for the past two or three years by launching an email to people who've played with us in the past and that really fills it up right there," Johnson said. "Everyone is playing competitive ball and teams are playing games within one or two runs [in the Summer Smash] and that's what you want. You want good, competitive baseball and that's what we got."

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