Apr. 1—The tournament will have to wait — again.
Officials on Wednesday night made the decision to cancel this year's Junior National Classic — formerly known as the Junior Sunbelt Classic — citing COVID-19 concerns.
Tournament coordinator Chris Kelley said he felt it was the right decision, but was still saddened that the student-athletes wouldn't be getting a chance to play.
"The final decision was made last night to not have the tournament this summer," he said Thursday in a message. "It's the right decision but I sure wanted to play."
Kelley said concerns for officials included COVID-19 protocols, what would happen should a player contract the illness while in Oklahoma, and how would they protect both the player and host families.
"The main concern was how to protect the host families," he said. "Main concerns were what happens if a player gets COVID once they got here. How do we take care of him and get him home?"
Last year's Junior National Classic was also canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with hopes to pick the games back up the following year. The next installment is set for 2022.
The annual tournament has been a McAlester staple since 1997 and showcases the work of a multitude of volunteers at the two sites of McAlester and Wilburton to help make it happen. In addition, families from around the area sign up to be host families and house players for the duration of the tournament — forging bonds that last well beyond the tournament's end.
Teams from Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Canada have recently participated in the tournament, with Arkansas set to join before the tournament's cancellation in 2020.
The Junior National Classic has become a hot-bed for college and professional scouts to find some of the best talent from across the country — and has hosted many players who went on to become Major League Baseball players, such as Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts.
Contact Derek Hatridge at firstname.lastname@example.org.