Sports season paradise in Baker
The best two weeks in the sports season are nearly over. Call it the high school version of March Madness. There are state basketball tournaments all over Oregon, but no one does it like Baker City.
Last weekend was the start — the Old Oregon League postseason tournament. Three days and 12 games of basketball bliss.
It’s much like any basketball tournament. There was an upset — No. 6 seed Joseph boys knocking off No. 3 seed Cove. The No. 1 seeds ended up ruling the tournament on the girls side with Imbler winning the championship game. On the boys side, No. 2 seed Powder Valley cruised past top-seeded Imbler.
Personally, I was excited, and my mouth starting watering, when the news broke that the Old Oregon League and Baker City reupped for four more seasons, with the new contract running through the 2017-18 season. The easiest way to a sports reporter’s heart is with a great hospitality room. Baker doesn’t disappoint. Homemade meals on day one, ribs on day two and prime rib on championship night — and gluten-free peanut butter cookies. Think Templeton from Charlotte’s Web in the scene at the fair. It’s a smorgasbord.
While the food makes me happy, the organizers of the tournament do a great job making more than a reporter looking for a free meal see what a well oiled machine looks like.
First and foremost it’s about the athletes and the schools they attend.
For the first time since I started covering the tournament I was onsite to see the “opening ceremonies” — which is a nice way of saying I just got there really early. It was the coaches meeting. Baker County Tournaments chairman Dale Curtis and vice chair Colleen Taylor were in a generous mood. Part of the tradition of the tournament involves awards for the school that gets its information the quickest — a sizable gift certificate to feed the team and a new ball rack. There is also an award for the team that gets the information in the slowest — a stuffed turtle.
It’s the personal touches that make the tournament more than just a business. It’s a relationship that has been built over time, and continues to grow each postseason.
Curtis and Taylor did an amazing job making sure that everything I needed, outside of meals, was taken care of. Someday I’ll get Dale to deliver to the scorers table.
But, as great as Curtis and Taylor are, they couldn’t do it alone. They don’t have to. The tournament has a workforce that meets everyone with a smile at the gate. Call it an army of volunteers.
“We couldn’t have the successful tournaments we have without the staff we have,” Curtis told the Baker City Herald. “It couldn’t happen without them.”
Obviously the high school lends a hand, but it takes more than that for the more than 10,000 people that filter through the doors in three days.
“The Baker community is so supportive,” Taylor told the Baker City Herald. “It’s a partnership between us, the community, Baker 5J School District, the OSAA, Community Bank, the service clubs and all the volunteers.”
Union and Baker County have four teams left that played in Baker City during the Old Oregon League postseason tournament, and are a game away from returning to Baker.
And my stomach is hoping they all do — and of course a state title for a local team would be nice, too.