Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fairview Heights Set to Host International Baseball Tournament

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fairview Heights Set to Host International Baseball Tournament

Article excerpt

Fun, children, baseball and international relations will combine next month when the St. Louis area has the Pan American Baseball Championships for 11- and 12-year-old boys.

The United States and 11 other countries each will send 18 of its best players to compete in the games in Longacre Park in Fairview Heights Aug. 1-13. This year is the first time these championships have been held in the United States.

"It's the No. 1 youth baseball tournament for 11- and 12-year-olds on this side of the world," said Kevin Whitworth, president of the International Athletic Foundation and executive director of operations of the Pan Am games here.

Fairview Heights became involved through contacts its officials had made when the Olympic Festival was held in the St. Louis area last summer.

"The reason we're doing the whole thing is for the kids," said Terry Wilson, Fairview Heights parks and recreation director and assistant director of operations of the Pan Am games. "The experience will be neat," he said, for both the visiting players and those here.

Organizers are looking for host families from the area to open their homes and give the foreign youngsters a taste of American family life. Most of the players don't speak English. They are from Argentina, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Brazil, Venezuela, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico and Aruba.

Communication between the boys and the host families will be "kind of tough" at first, Wilson said. "But it'll get easier. Kids are kids, no matter where they're from."

Anyone interested in taking two or more boys should call the Parks Department at (618) 397-9361. Theresa Boothman, a mother of a "ball-oriented family," is helping match boys with hosts.

Families are expected to give each boy a bed and feed and treat him "like one of your own," Boothman said. She is arranging carpools to take the boys to and from practices and games. Vans also will help provide transportation.

Boothman hopes to arrange families in groups of nine families each with each group having someone in it who speaks Spanish or Portuguese. That person can help other families communicate with their players. …

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