Cheyenne travel teams enjoy rare home tourney


Jun. 27—CHEYENNE — Compared to a typical summer weekend, Tyler Nelson and his family were able to sleep in Saturday morning.

They weren’t scrambling to load the car and be headed south on Interstate 25 by sunrise. Nelson forgot his jacket, but knew he could run pick it up and be back to the Cheyenne Junior League complex before his son’s next game with WYCO’s under-10 competitive baseball team.

Those are luxuries all Cheyenne travel baseball parents are enjoying this weekend as the Capital City Championships provides a rare opportunity to compete at home.

“I got a lot more sleep, and I’m a lot more relaxed than I would be,” Nelson said with a chuckle. “Home is also close enough I can just run and grab anything I need.”

If Nelson’s son, Troy, has a tournament within an hour’s drive, the family will be on the road early, but they can return to Cheyenne to sleep in their own beds. They’ll repeat that process Sunday. Tournaments contested in suburban Denver require 4 a.m. wakeup calls on Saturdays and a night in a hotel.

It’s a process the Nelsons became quite familiar with over the seven years their daughter, Siera, played competitive fastpitch softball with the Cheyenne Extreme organization.

“Typically, the cooler would be in the car, there would be pillows and blankets in the car, clothes and all that in the car,” Nelson said. “You’re ready to be mobile the whole time you’re supporting your player.”

Cheyenne used to be home to the annual Howard Dunbar youth baseball tournament, but it’s been a few years since that event was held.

Colorado clubs were reluctant to make the trek north to Wyoming, in part, because there are a host of tournaments for them to choose from around the Denver metro area that are sanctioned by Triple Crown, the Continental Amateur Baseball Association or the United States Specialty Sports Association.

“It was a hard sell for them to come up here,” Capital City Championships tournament director Brian Zowada said. “With the progression of so many travel teams, they really look for sanctioned events to earn points for the state tourneys in Colorado.”

However, COVID-19 shuttered nearly all youth events in the Centennial State last summer. Worried their teams might miss out on a summer of fun and development, Cheyenne groups worked to capitalize on Colorado’s shutdown by hosting a few small tournaments here.

Those events were eye-opening for teams that crossed the state line. They found quality facilities, well-run events and a high level of competition.

Those groups spread the word, and Zowada had no shortage of teams vying for a spot in the Capital City Championships. This weekend’s event features 65 teams competing across 19 fields and six age divisions, starting at the under-8 level. Teams came from as far away as Sheridan, but mostly from Colorado and Nebraska.

The only fields the tournament isn’t putting to use in Cheyenne are the Dutcher Complex west of Converse Avenue, Dunbar Field in Lions Park, and Pioneer Park and Powers Field.

The Cheyenne Junior League complex was a hive of activity, with pop-up tents providing shade to families lining the perimeter of the nine fields, food trucks serving customers in the middle of the complex, and teams warming up or debriefing in its grassy areas.

Zowada hopes the Capital City Championships becomes an annual event, but also would like to host a smaller event in the spring. There are a few challenges that need to be overcome before additional tournaments are added to the schedule.

In the meantime, Cheyenne teams are relishing the rare opportunity to play on their own fields and sleep in their own beds.

“This is nice because you see a lot more grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends out here who don’t typically get to watch these kids play,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot bigger crowds and a lot more support for the kids this weekend, which is great.”

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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