CHAUMONT A tournament that was supposed to be a one-year tribute from a father to a fallen son is now going into its 30th year.
The Willie Putnam Memorial Baseball Tournament will be held this weekend starting Friday and lasting through Sunday. There will be nearly 60 games between 39 teams at seven fields in Cape Vincent, Chaumont and Three Mile Bay.
The tournament was created by Willies father, Walt, as a tribute to his son, who died in a tragic bicycle accident in 1982.
Tournament coordinator Bill Schell said it has been the children and parents that have made the event grow into what it is today.
We thought it was going to last one year, said Schell, who is also a consultant for the Thousand Islands Baseball Council. It wasnt officially called the Willie Putnam tournament, but the kids loved it and it took a life of its own.
The tournament has grown from the original eight team field to as many as 48 teams in 2006. The field has shrunk down to a more manageable 40 teams, according to Schell.
We got up to 48 teams, but manpower became an issue, said Schell. Forty teams is the magic number.
The tournament not only features teams from Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties, but it has teams from Eastern Ontario. Schell said the teams from Canada want to reserve their spot early.
I get emails in January and February from the coaches up there that want to ask about reserving a spot, said Schell. The Canadian teams enjoy it.
Schell said that Walt Putnams love of hockey, which his son Willie had being a youth hockey player, helped grow the international field.
Walt would go to different places and would find different people to talk to, said Schell. He would go to hockey games in Watertown and get contacts.
Teams as far as away as New Hampshire have played at the tournament in previous years.
While there are trophies for first and second place, the tournament is not like others. We want to make the games competitive, but we dont want the win-at-all-costs attitude, said Schell.
Walt Putnam passed away on Sept. 9, 2010, but the family has said it will continue the tournament.
A full schedule of the tournament can be found in the Times Scoreboard on C2. Admission for all games is free.