Any baseball fan knows, that Cooperstown, N.Y. is a baseball town. Usually, that’s because the little burg is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But, in conjunction with that, a youth baseball complex has been developed called Cooperstown Dreams Park, home of the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational Tournaments.
The Park, which has expanded to 22 fields, opened in 1996 and now hosts between 96 and 104 aged 12-and-under teams from across the United States and Canada each week during the summer.
Each team brings an umpire and, for the last two years, one of those umpires has been Monty Freel of Bryant.[more]
“Last year, there was a team from central Arkansas, the Arkansas Reds and one of the guys that coaches with them knew that I used to umpire youth baseball,” recounted Freel, who played at Hope High School then at Ouachita Baptist University before spending three years as a coach at OBU. “He actually played for me in college. He called me and asked me if I would go.
“The experience was incredible,” he stated.
This summer, there were two teams from Arkansas that were invited, the Dairy Queen Busters from Conway and the East Arkansas Bandits from West Memphis. The Busters invited Freel to go along.
“They both ended up going there the same week,” he related. “That was week five.”
Freel, owner of Quizno’s Subs and Freel Home Inspections in Bryant, also umpired at the Little League State Tournament in Arkansas this summer.
“You show up on a Saturday night,” he said of the Cooperstown tournaments. “They have a skills competition, a home run derby, a throwing competition they call Around the Horn, a race around the bases, and a throwing accuracy competition from center field called Golden Arm.
“Sunday morning they start baseball games and each team plays two games Sunday, two on Monday and two on Tuesday in pool play. Wednesday morning they start a single-elimination tournament based on the results of those six games.”
In addition, all the umpires meet for a clinic then are evaluated throughout the pool play games with each working three games a day. The top-rated umpires are named to call the championship game. This summer, out of the 104 umpires on hand for week five, Freel received the top rating and was assigned second base in the title game.
“The atmosphere is just amazing,” he related. “I absolutely enjoyed it. It’s pretty incredible to watch the caliber of play and the skills the kids have not only as individual players but with their team work.”