The Norman Transcript

Sports

June 17, 2013

Heartland Classic starts tonight with silent auction to benefit tornado victims

NORMAN — The 4th Annual Heartland Classic is on tap for next week in Moore and Norman. Organizers are excited about the new changes to the baseball tournament that used to be known as the Sun belt. Even if they came at the loss of one of the original teams.

The new format calls for  two tournaments going at once. A round-robin will take place June 18-20. The team with the best record will earn the round-robin championship.

June 21-22 the Heartland will turn into a double-elimination tournament with the championship game scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Norman High School.

“With the loss of Team Arizona, it was difficult to find a replacement on short notice,” said tournament president, Sherri Rogers. “States that we contacted felt that they would need a full year to be able to fund a team’s travel to Oklahoma as well as deciding on how to select a team. As a board we decided to go with seven teams this year and changed the format to make this happen.”

The seven teams that will make up the tournament field include Team Oklahoma, Team Georgia, Team Colorado, Team Arkansas, Team Maryland, Team Ohio and Team Texas.

Team Arizona, one of the original members of the SunBelt when it was created, due to financial issues.

“Their baseball association met in December and decided that do to the rising costs of transporting a team to Oklahoma that they would step away from the tournament,” Rogers said. “This team traveled by air and with the rising costs of air fares and bags it was just too expensive for their organization to continue to fund.  We hated to lose them as they have always provided a strong competitive team and have always brought an outstanding group of young men year after year.  As for the rest of the field, they continue to remain committed to our tournament and have shown no indication that things will change.”

Each team is made up of top high school players from around its home states. One of those players who will be on Team Oklahoma is Southmoore’s Tre Edwards. It’s an honor he has been looking forward to for some time.

“I’m very excited,” Edwards said. “This is something I have been watching since I was three. I always told my family that I’d love to play in this. I found out about two weeks ago. I received a text message from Coach James.”

Edwards will be attending the University of Arkansas in the fall, where he will continue his baseball career on a full scholarship. He is one of many players who will move on to play baseball in college.

“I don’t know if people realize the quality of the talent on these teams as they are all Division I NCAA athletes who are going on to college and play ball as well as some will go on to play professionally,” Rogers said. “Also, we want people to come out as we have games going at three venues and it is free to attend.”

Before heading off to join the Razorbacks, being able to play for his home state one last time is a special treat for Edwards. Especially after all his home town of Moore has been through over the past month due to the May 20th tornado.

Several of the Heartland Classic games will be played at Southmoore High. When visiting team members ask him how his city is recovering, Edwards already knows what he plans to say.

“The city of Moore is more than just a community,” Edwards said. “ We are a family, if one gets knocked down we all get knocked down. We have done a lot in this short amount of time and ill be Moore strong forever.”

The opening ceremonies for the Classic start at 6 p.m. tonight at Southmoore High. A silent auction of sports memorabilia and other great items is taking place during the opening ceremonies and will run throughout the tournament. All proceeds raised will go to the athletes at Southmoore who had their homes destroyed in the recent tornados.

 "Funds raised will go to the high school athletic fund," Rogers said. "We have spoken with our teams coming to play and they are pitching in with auction items as well as Team Maryland and Team Ohio is bringing donation checks as their schools hosted fundraisers.  One of the assistant coaches for Maryland, Ty Whitaker helped organize a school supply campaign and teachers are driving to Oklahoma during the tournament to bring their donation.  Also, on Monday night during the Opening Ceremonies, all players in the tournament are going to be part of a special presentation for tornado victims."

 

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