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Killing a Wichita institution

The National Baseball Congress sits on the fringe of a business definition these days, given its ownership by the city of Wichita. But what’s happening to it is on my mind.

The tournament, which is a Wichita institution since Hap Dumont began it here in 1935, hit one of its low ebbs this summer on what should have been the gala celebration of its 75th anniversary.

Two reasons, as a longtime observer: Tournament management’s fixation on forcing teams to qualify and its insistence on a heavy local flavor.

Take a look at the bracket at www.nbcbaseball.com, and tell me exactly how many teams you’ve heard of. The answer for me is not many, and I’ve been going to tournament games since I was 7 - a LONG time.

But there are plenty of cities you’ve heard of - Valley Center, Newton, etc. - none who will make more than a cursory appearance in the tournament.

And then take note of the fate that befell the defending champ, Santa Barbara, Calif. - a probable second round match-up with the Alaska League All-Stars, who will be wearing Anchorage blue this summer.

I could rant on this for a thousand more words, but suffice to say it’s my view the NBC’s baseball model is badly flawed. And based on a Sunday Eagle report, it’s about to get more flawed if NBC officials narrow the tournament to only champions of their accredited leagues, some which apparently can’t send quality teams to the tournament, given the look of recent fields.

Get the familiar teams in the tournament at all costs. There’s NO excuse to ever stage a tournament without the El Dorado Broncos, an Alaska team, the Beatrice Bruins, the Seattle Studs, the Liberal BeeJays and similar teams. Rarely do any of the old standards field a truly bad team.  Stage quality regional tournaments to fill the field.

And then trim the sucker down and play 12 days of quality baseball.

Or people who haven’t spent most of their lives at the tournament will quit coming. And that’s a tragedy.

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