McHenry County ready to greet international, out-of-state MCYSA competitors
Excitement is building as youth baseball teams from as far away as Japan, Puerto Rico and across the United States prepare to board planes, buses and vans to travel to McHenry County for the 2022 MCYSA tournament.
Elite-level competitions will take place in 11U, 13U and 15U age categories in two sessions, July 15-18 and July 21-24, on fields at Lippold Park in Crystal Lake and Emricson Park in Woodstock. Along with those from Japan and Puerto Rico, competing teams hail from California, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois.
With 64 teams signed up, more than 1,000 players and their family members are expected to arrive starting next week, said Dan Malone, director of the McHenry County Youth Sports Association tournament.
"I invite everyone to come out and watch the games," he said. "It's an inexpensive, fantastic intercultural experience for the whole family."
There is no charge to attend games; food, drinks and tournament swag will be available for purchase. A complete schedule of games will be posted soon at mcysasports.org.
Among those eagerly anticipating the tourney's mid-July start is Robert Baser of Cary. He and his wife, Julia, coordinate home stays for the national team coming from Japan. Eight area families, including the Basers, will take two to three players each from the 15U team.
"This will be our sixth year hosting," Robert Baser said. "We look forward to welcoming players from a different country into our home. Even though there's a language barrier, we find ways to communicate and have a great time."
Baser said that after a two-year Covid-related hiatus, his family members -- including sons ages 13, 16 and 19 -- are especially excited to greet this year's contingent.
Baser added that past visitors have left a lasting impression in his household, including at the dinner table, where some favorite dishes have been renamed.
"Last night we made Tatsu chicken," he said. "It's a marinaded chicken that a past Japanese player liked so much that now it's called Tatsu chicken in our house."
While host families are squared away for this year, MCYSA already is taking names for future years. Those interested should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I would encourage people to open their doors and give it a try," he said. "It's an amazing experience."
Also amazing is the level of play, and the intercultural interplay, that spectators will experience, Malone and MCYSA Board President John Streit said.
"The local community would really enjoy watching the international teams play our local teams," Malone said. "The international teams play a different brand of baseball than what we're used to seeing."
From the disciplined Japanese team that hangs its bags, shoes and mitts just so to the Puerto Rican fans who clang cowbells, sing and dance, the atmosphere is steeped in cultural riches, Streit and Malone said.
Opening ceremonies take place about 7 p.m. Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 21, at Lippold Park, 851 Route 176, Crystal Lake, with first ballgames scheduled for 8 p.m.
For other information, visit mcysasports.org or send email to email@example.com.