The Grand Forks International (GFI) baseball tournament is celebrating its 35th birthday, but, unfortunately, the Trail AM Ford Orioles aren’t invited to the party.
GFI coordinator Gerry Foster released the 12-team line up in the Grand Forks Gazette on Tuesday with the conspicuous absence of the Orioles.
“We didn’t pass on the GFI,” said Orioles player-manager Jim Maniago. “We weren’t invited and I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with that decision. We never really got a straight answer why, we’ve gone every year it’s been on since 1997.”
Trail thought their inclusion in the tournament was a sure-thing, but Foster’s greatest concern was to bring the highest calibre of baseball possible to the tournament.
“There’s always a challenge, when an events being run, especially one of this magnitude, that’s a specialty event,” said Foster. “The meat of our line up has to come from the U.S. or there just wouldn’t be a tournament.”
That was a real possibility when the GFI was cancelled in 2013, then switched its date from the September Labour Day weekend to its current June 28 to July 3 date.
“It would be a shame for this tournament to end because nobody has really gone out there, to try and attract these new teams.”
Foster attracted four new teams this year including the Westchase Express from Houston, Tex., the reigning 2015 Stan Musial World Series champion – but at the expense of any local contender.
“We are the local team,” said Maniago. “We always bring fans from Trail into the ballpark and typically our games are among the most attended. We have always performed well and have made the playoff round several times. Last year we struggled for various reasons, partially because they set us up with a schedule that had us playing games during the work day so guys couldn’t get there.”