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How I See It, By Joe McHaney

Little League tourney rocks
Roars from the crowds could be heard blocks away around Juniper Hills Park this past weekend in Madras.
   As home to the District 5 Little League baseball and softball all-star tournaments, Juniper Hills Park was swarmed with hundreds of Little League players and spectators for what has turned out to be a fantastic tournament thus far.
   Walking into the ball park, the smell of fresh-cut grass and aromas from the snack shack coupled with chatter amongst patrons and scenic views gave me, and I'm sure many people this past weekend, reason to be excited. The facility has held the tournament well, and thanks to an army of volunteers, the annual all-star event has run smoothly.
   Little League all-star tournaments are nothing short of amazing, and this year has been no exception. The tournaments bring sun burns, sore feet or rears, gut aches, scratchy throats and are patient testers, but to see the looks and reactions on those kids is amazing.
   Seeing mothers pace, fathers scream encouragement and coaches trying to hold it together, is what makes Little League all-star tournaments stand out. They're nerve racking, emotional and character builders. You win, you survive, but life lessons are taught with tournament losses.
   Walking from field to field, you can hear coaches talk strategy, parents support kids and youths running around enjoying what the tournament has to offer.
   Sure, tournaments have glitches. We are humans after all. No one has ever been to a tournament without seeing a coach or a parent lose it and act more immature than the players on the field. It happens, its unfortunate, but it's a part of Little League. Good sportsmanship normally wins out, though, and that's been the case this past weekend.
   Players have picked one another up during tough moments and shaken hands, win or lose, after games with their opponents. Parent and coaching blow-ups seemed to be at a minimum, setting a scene for what Little League baseball and softball is all about, and it's evident on the faces of local volunteers because they're happy with the results.
   There have been a lot of long-time residents that are extremely proud of what they have brought to Madras. They've wanted to use the tournament to help showcase the community, and it's worked. Chatter amongst visiting crowds has been nothing but positive. People have made comments about the views, the fields and the hospitality.
    Cars full of kids in suburbans with colorful writing on their windows with names of players or sayings to support respective teams have engulfed Madras this past weekend. Restaurants have been packed, gas stations and grocery stores have been hoping, and B Street has looked more like I-5 in Portland during rush hour.
   The all-star tournament has reached its halfway mark and the championship rounds have arrived. The intensity and crowds should swell and victories will bring big celebrations, while losses will sting even more this week.
   This year, Jefferson County has taken the spotlight. Over the past couple years, the local teams have taken all-star losses on the chops during lopsided games, but this past weekend Jefferson County went 4-0 in Minors and Majors baseball play, setting up two championship bracket semifinal games against Hermiston Tuesday evening.
   So far, the Jefferson County games have created a scene that area residents shouldn't miss. Fans have packed the bleachers around home plate and spectators have lined up down the first base and third base fences. Patrons have also surrounded the fields by watching from the outfield, creating a spectacle that is more movie like, than real.
   With Jefferson County playing during prime time Tuesday evening, Majors at 5:15 p.m. and Minors at 5:45 p.m., area residents should flock to Juniper Hills Park to support their local all-stars. The more people that show up to watch these young men take on the powerful teams from Hermiston, the better it will be for all the players and the support would only aid Jefferson County in its quest to earn victories.
   So far, Madras has outdone itself as host of the tournaments. Let's show our visitors how we support our youths by showing up in large numbers to root these teams on.