What started out as Josh Riley trying to find a weekend to host a travel baseball tournament for fourth-graders turned into Creston hosting the first Armed Forces Day Creston Baseball Jamboree.
The jamboree is scheduled for Saturday at VFW Field in Creston on Armed Forces Day. It will be a three-team round-robin format, featuring fourth-grade teams from Creston, Earlham and Cumberland-Anita-Massena (CAM).
Games begin at 8:45 a.m. with Earlham vs. Creston, followed by an Armed Forces Day ceremony at 10:30 a.m. CAM plays Earlham at 11 a.m. and the day comes to a close with Creston meeting CAM at 1 p.m.
“To make a long story short, there’s not very many weekends you can set up travel baseball and have field availability,” said Riley. “We started looking at dates and one of the dates, we were looking at the calendar, and it said Armed Forces Day. I contacted a buddy, Kyle Sand, who is helping me organize it. One thing led to another and we just started putting it together.”
The only field in Creston set up for fourth-grade rules is VFW Field. It all made sense to Riley, with the date falling on Armed Forces Day and games being played at VFW Field.
Three local veterans were selected to be honored at the jamboree, with each throwing out a ceremonial first pitch prior to one of the games. Veterans being honored include Jayrd Merritt, Gary Bucklin and Chass Ossian.
“We wanted to pick ones that would be good role models for the kids,” Riley said. “I contacted VFW and Gary O’Daniels said, ‘Why don’t we put something together where we honor some younger vets so the kids can relate to them more?’”
Merritt, a Creston Police officer, and Ossian, an Iowa state trooper, were selected. Bucklin, who coached Riley in little league, was also selected because of his love of baseball.
During the Armed Forces Day ceremony at 10:30, three local Korean War veterans will be honored. Those veterans are Orville Lines, Dick Ide and Charlie Erickson.
Admission to the jamboree is free. Riley just hopes to have as many veterans in attendance as possible.
“Baseball is America’s sport. We’re trying to set up an event in which we get some of the vets there and just enjoy watching the kids play,” Riley said. “We’re just coming here to play the game in honor of all the military branches and vets and just have fun. It’s just in honor of Armed Forces Day.”
Riley’s goal is for the event to be successful enough that next year’s fourth-grade group decides to continue the jamboree and for more teams to be interested in playing in it.