Ken Cala fields questions about the annual World Boy’s Tournament.
Photo by Stephen Texeira
This summer, kids from all over the world will be speaking the same language in Alameda. That is, the language of baseball. The annual World Boy’s Tournament will hold its opening day on Aug. 6 at the College of Alameda. For eight days, a group of top-notch international baseball players will compete against one another. When they’re off the field, they’ll be learning about each other’s cultures, eating burgers and hot dogs and forming friendships, all making for a win-win experience. President and general manager of the 2017 Alameda World Tournament Baseball team, Ken Cala, pitches the whole story.
How did Alameda become a host city for the annual World Boy’s Tournament?
In 1982, Alameda’s own Bill Dal Porto was one of the founders of this organization. Since then, there have been more than 15 international teams that have participated in various tournaments. At each tournament, a team nominates itself to host the following year. So, this August, we will find out where our team will be traveling to next year. It could be to Australia, Hawaii, or maybe Italy. Alameda last hosted in 2008. To host is a huge commitment on many levels requiring a great deal of preparation. The host city typically home-stays all the players, making sure the cultural aspect of the stay is captured. This year, Alameda will host teams from Japan, Germany, Australia, Italy, Mexico, Korea, as well as Hawaii, San Diego, and Fresno. Alameda families will be hosting about 110 international players for the week while the U.S. teams will be staying at local hotels. Finding families to home-stay these players for the week is our primary hurdle right now.
What are the duties of a home-stay family, and how does one become a host?
Linda Woodworth is our home-stay coordinator and is doing a great job. But we are only about halfway where we need to be. We ask that each host family take in two players from Aug. 5-13. We recognize that this is big commitment; therefore, it is totally fine if neighbors or friends want to share or split the duties. The responsibilities include: providing lodging and meals for two or more 14-to-15-year-old players from one international team, either sleeping on sofas, air mattresses, or sleeping bags; providing or coordinating transportation with other families to and from games; providing adult supervision, or coordinating with other families, during nongame times; and considering attending the Welcome Beach Party, as many games as possible, as well as A’s game outing
Host families are an integral part of this entire process, and we encourage as much involvement as possible. We still need help in this area, so if anyone has the desire to learn some Japanese or Australian slang, please reach out to me, Ken Cala, at KenC@lowerythomas.com or to Linda Woodworth at WoodworthLH@gmail.com. To host a family is a really rewarding experience offering memories to last a lifetime.
Who funds the tournament?
The financial commitment of the host city is large as it is responsible for fields, umpires, transportation, a welcome party for all teams, entertainment, and securing a hotel for managers and coaches of participating teams. While players pay a small fee to play in a summer league as well as the tournament, our primary source of funds is through generous donations from the public and local businesses. For example, Alameda Urgent Care sought us out and asked if it could make a financial contribution as well as provide first aid resources during the tournament. We had an extremely successful fundraiser in April at the Aeolian Yacht Club where past players and parents and local baseball supporters showed up to help the cause. Raffling off two donated Hamilton tickets also helped. We are a 100 percent volunteer organization. Our managers, coaches, general manager, board members are all volunteer positions and are held by those who have either participated in the tournament themselves or are parents of players. All reap the same benefits of learning about other cultures through the love of baseball.
Is it always the All-Star kids that are chosen to play?
Yes, this is an extremely competitive tournament. And our bylaws state that at least 75 percent of Alameda’s team must consist of Alameda residents. By comparison, Japan picks one player from each “district” within Japan, which essentially ends up being a national team. Because Alameda pulls from a much smaller area than these other teams, we typically are not able to win this tournament—except for in 1986 when we combined our players with Fresno to send one Northern California team to Osaka, Japan. That said, we had over 60 great players try out in February, and we are really excited about this year’s team. While it is certainly our goal to be competitive and win the tournament, our primary objective is to select kids from Alameda who will represent our city and their family in a way we expect and also have solid baseball skills.
Combining baseball and a foreign exchange program seems like a great bonding experience.
When I traveled with the team to Japan two years ago, there were weeping Japanese mothers on the train platform as they watched their Alameda players board the train. Tyler Cobb, a coach on this year’s team, played in 2008 when Alameda last hosted and in Italy in 2009. The Cobb family has also hosted teams from Australia, Japan, and Fresno on several occasions over the years. I know Tyler still keeps in touch with all of these players and visits with them whenever possible. Memories like watching Japanese players eat their first-ever hamburger or learning some Australian slang or eating gelato in Italy last forever. Bonds are also formed by home-stay parents and the parents of the players they home-stay. Oftentimes, the foreign player parents are so appreciative and thankful that they invite them to their home if ever in the area.