After a year off, some of the top high school baseball players in the Northwest return to Clark County for special tournament
The Curt Daniels Invitational baseball tournament is in full swing and will continue through the holiday with championship and placing games set for Sunday.
For tournament organizer Ben McGrew, those are special words. Especially after last year.
“Truthfully, I didn’t want COVID to beat Curt,” McGrew said.
This is the 16th Curt Daniels Invite. A year ago, McGrew had to call off the tournament just two days prior to its first pitch.
Fans might recall last summer there was a chance. The pandemic was still going — and would certainly get worse later in the year — but in the summer months, there was still hope to have some outdoor sports.
Two days before the start of last year’s tournament, though, state guidelines called for no ball.
Zach Blair, who will be a junior at Camas High School and now plays for the Vancouver Mavericks in the summer, was just one of many athletes who were shut down last summer. But he still managed to make as much out of it as possible. He committed to Oregon State baseball last year.
This week, he is enjoying his time on the field, in games, with his teammates at this tournament.
McGrew said he will continue this tournament as long as he is able.
“To keep Curt’s name relevant,” McGrew said.
Daniels was the longtime high school coach at Columbia River and then Hudson’s Bay. His Columbia River squad won a state title in 1984. He also was a fixture of summer baseball and became a major league scout. Daniels died in 2003.
The Vancouver Cardinals used to host this tournament. That club does not have a team anymore. So the Vancouver Mavericks have taken over as hosts. The Clark County Cubs, featuring athletes from Hudson’s Bay, help run the tournament.
This year’s tourney has 10 teams. It started Wednesday with the Vancouver teams — the Mavericks and Northwest Stars — taking on the Portland teams — Gunderson Baseball and the Portland Baseball Club.
More games were played all day Thursday.
There are three games Friday at Curt Daniels Field at Propstra Stadium on the campus of Hudson’s Bay. There are three more games Friday at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. On Saturday, those facilities will host four games. Baseball, baseball, and more baseball.
The tournament ends Sunday with semifinals and championship games at Propstra Stadium.
Blair missed out on Thursday’s game because he was in Eugene for a tryout for the Area Code Games. That’s life for a young recruit in this sport, traveling all summer to showcase his skills.
He said he is loving life with the Mavericks, a team that plays five, six times a week, playing throughout the Vancouver-Portland metro area and the Northwest.
“Last year, we didn’t get to play a game at all,” Blair said. “Practice is alright, but it’s good to get out there and play. I think it’s awesome to play a lot of games again, against good teams, seeing great players.”
Blair’s summer team last year kept practicing as much as possible. Longtime Clark County baseball coach/analyst Korey Kier helped out at a lot of those practices. He noticed Blair’s talent. It was Kier, Blair said, who got word out to Oregon State.
Blair sent Oregon State coaches video of his workouts. By the end of the summer, Blair had announced his intention to sign with the Beavers. He cannot do that until his senior year of high school.
“I always watched them growing up. I’ve always wanted to play center field for them,” Blair said.
Oh, and his brother is going there, too. Jake Blair is a preferred walk-on for the Oregon State football team.
Zach Blair still plays football at Camas, as well. He enjoys both sports, but, he said, he loves baseball more.
Blair, the rest of the Mavericks, and all in the baseball community are thrilled that their love is back this summer.
And there is plenty of baseball love this weekend at the Curt Daniels Invitational.
Note: For schedule of events: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EStA9S-S82KX3yg4pEgDi2Qx2BTLhur1/view