History of the Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament
The Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament traces its roots all the way back to 1968 when Larry Seminoff and other local baseball enthusiasts held the first annual International Labor day Tournament at James Donaldson Park. As the annual tournament grew and garnered more attention, Seminoff and company were able to secure a local sponsor in the Grand Forks and District Credit Union. In 1975, the Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament, as we know it, was born, and Grand Forks became home to what is recognized by many as one of the best tournaments of its kind in North America.
As the years went by, the Grand Forks International’s roster of teams continued to expand with more teams coming from outside of the Forks’ immediate area with teams from Seattle, San Diego and Lewiston forming the backbone of the annual event. Major improvements followed at James Donaldson Park, with lights being installed in 1981 and the grandstand being built in 1986, paving the way for the GFI to become the largest invitational baseball tournament in Canada.
In 1984 the tournament increased to 12 teams, but it wasn’t until 1987 when the true “international” flavor was added as Grand Forks welcomed Japan for the first time and in 1988 Taiwan. Since then, squads from Australia, China, Cuba as well as Russia have participated.
Over the years, the Grand Forks International has welcomed some of the world’s best amateur and semi-professional players with many going on to play in the ranks of Major League Baseball.
A quick glance at a list of some of the names of those who have played on the hallowed grounds of James Donaldson Park could easily make up a World Series champion team. For instance:
- 2-time Cy Young Awards Winner San Francisco Giant Tim Lincecum played at the GFI in 2004 with the Seattle Studs.
- 2003 MLB World Series Most Valuable Player and Boston Red Sox ace Josh Beckett played at the GFI with the Houston Astros in 1997.
- Brendan Ryan, starting shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals played with the Lewiston Truckers at the GFI in 2001.
- New York Mets left fielder and Trail, British Columbia product Jason Bay, the winner of the National Leagues 2004 Rookie of the Year award played with Trail Orioles at the GFI.
- Starting pitcher, Jeff Francis, of the Colorado Rockies pitched for Team Canada in 1999 at the GFI.
- Chicago Cubs outfielder, Kosuke Fukodome, played at the GFI for Japan in 1997.
- 2-time World Series champion with the Toronto Blue Jays and 1993 American League batting champion (.363), John Olerud, who played with the Washington State Cougars at the GFI in 1987 and 1988
- Maple Ridge, British Columbia’s very own Larry Walker Jr. who won the 1998 (.361), 1999 (.371), and 2001 (.350) National League Batting titles and was the National League home run leader in 1997 with 49, and was also named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in that same year. Walker played in the GFI in 1984, and is a future Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer.
This prestigious tourney has attracted many of the top semi-pro teams from the United States and Canada and around the world throughout the years.
Lewiston Truckers have claimed (9) titles overall, the most successful team in GFI History. Team Japan have claimed (4) titles. Seattle Studs have won 3 championships in a row (5 titles overall) and Burnaby Bulldogs became the 2nd Canadian team to win the GFI since 1976.