Baseball fans flock to historic Louis Bloch Park in Camas

Clark County Babe Ruth team dominates at regional tournament

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A player from Belgrade, Mont., takes a swing from a pitch from an all-star team from Moses Lake, Wash., on Friday, July 27, at Louis Bloch Park in Camas.

While the rest of Camas-Washougal geared up for last weekend’s Camas Days celebration and national motocross races at the Washougal MX Park, 10 Babe Ruth all-star teams and their families, some coming from as far away as Calgary in Alberta, Canada, descended on Camas’ historic Louis Bloch Park to prepare for the Pacific Northwest Babe Ruth Regional Tournament.

Originally slated to be held at Woodland’s Babe Ruth Field, the tournament attracts around 3,000 fans. This year, unexpected trouble with the Woodland field forced Babe Ruth officials to move the tourney just two weeks prior to the event.

Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth officials pitched in, offering to host the event at Louis Bloch. Volunteers from both Clark County Babe Ruth leagues put in long hours to prepare the field and make the weeklong tournament a success.

The sudden move worked out well for the team from Woodland. The KWRL (Kelso, Woodland, Ridgefield, Longview) Hit Squad, traveled to Camas and dominated the top 14-year-old all-star teams from the Northwestern United States and Canada.

Thanks to some really good pitching and consistent hitting, the Hit Squad cruised through the tournament, winning six games in a row, including a 13-0 romp against Gresham, Oregon, on Saturday, July 28, during the championship game.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience opportunity for our team. Every member of our team played hard and had a purpose to win this championship. I’m so excited,” Casey Struckmeier one of the starting pitchers for the Hit Squad, said.

The Hit Squad will now travel to Texas to play in the Babe Ruth World Series on Aug. 7-16.

Louis Bloch history celebrated

When the Babe Ruth teams arrived in Camas for opening ceremonies on July 22, players and their families learned about the 78-year history of Louis Bloch Park, named after the former chairman of the Crown Zellerbach Corporation, which gifted the land to the city of Camas in 1940. The park has one of the oldest baseball diamonds in the state of Washington, and has been home to the Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth League since 1958.

The historic ballpark was an unexpected treat for visiting Canadian teams, like the Longhorns from Calgary, Alberta.

“It’s beautiful. We don’t have trees this big. It’s awesome actually,” Jason Venderveen, of Calgary, said while watching his son play.

Another Calgary parent, Todd Swisher, said visiting Camas brought back memories from 34 years ago, when he lived in Longview, Washington, and played in the 1984 district tournament at Louis Bloch Park.

“Very surreal,” Swisher said of being back at the park. “(I remember) a lot of incredible moments, like when we used to take bets on who could hit a car with a home run. I mean, what other field has a major road going right past the outfield?”

The osprey that lives in a nest over left field at Louis Bloch Park was another welcome sight for the Canadian contingent.

“We have a diamond with three osprey, so that big fella over left field makes us feel right at home,” Jordan Newans, another Calgary parent, said.

Mother Nature brought a weeklong heat wave to the tournament, but families said they were thankful for the giant fir trees that helped cool spectators at Louis Bloch Park.

Roy Towpich from Belgrade, Montana, enjoyed the grassy park over the right field fence, where he could set up a shade tent and watch his son play.

“Man, this place has character,” Towpich said of the Camas park. “(It’s) such a cool design — the big hill in the back, the trees, the lights. Louis Bloch Park is just beautiful.”

Throughout the weeklong tournament, visiting families walked into downtown Camas and enjoyed the many shops, restaurants and even Camas Days festivities.

“We’ve been sightseeing like crazy, and taking in all the good food. And Camas Days is a blast,” Sandy Lopez from Moses Lake, Washington, said, while watching her son play on the historic ball field.