Fifth field added for Freeport International Baseball Invitational, which expects 20 teams

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021 | 5:45 PM


Excitement continues to build for next week’s Freeport International Baseball Invitational, with 20 teams, five area fields and close to 60 games scheduled over five days.

“For 27 years, we’ve been saying that there is no pressure to win a game for a trophy,” Freeport International president Chuck Sarver said. “We want to always make it a fun celebration of baseball. Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, we had 23 signed up and three ended up bailing because of (virus fears). This year, we have a nice field of teams, and I don’t see any of them going away.”

The Freeport International already was set to utilize four game sites: the home hub of James Swartz Memorial Field in Freeport Borough, Freeport Community Park and Springdale and Armstrong high schools.

Sarver said a working relationship with Highlands High School quickly formed Monday, adding a fifth location for games. It will be the first games played at Highlands, Sarver said, in at least a decade.

The Freeport International experience, Sarver said, often is remembered for a long time. He noted a recent meeting with a former participant who represented a team from Brooklyn.

“We had the work done on the field last Thursday and Friday, and Friday after work, I cruised down to the (borough) field to check on my excavating guy,” Sarver said.

“I look at the bleachers by my office, and there is a younger guy sitting there looking at the field. He looked familiar, but I didn’t know him. He told me who he was — his name is Hugo — and where he was from and said he was reminiscing and reliving memories about playing here a couple years ago. He said he played his last baseball game on the borough field before telling his team he was going into the armed services.

”He’s a Mets fan who was in town with a fan club for the Mets-Pirates series. He said he had to come back here where he played his last game. It was that important to him. I thought that was really nice.”

Sarver said Hugo hopes to come back next year and play in the Old-Timers Game.

Teams from France and Puerto Rico were hoping to come in for the week of games, but travel logistics with covid prevented them from being part of the festivities.

Sarver said he is looking forward to working with both organizations to have them come to the Freeport International next summer.

The grandson of Puerto Rico team organizer Eddie Arroyo, Edwin Arroyo, a Freeport International alum who played as recently as 2018, was drafted 48th overall by the Seattle Mariners last week.

The younger Arroyo, a shortstop and recent graduate of Central Pointe Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Fla., and an Arecibo, Puerto Rico, native, also is a Florida State commit.

While there won’t be international flavor at this year’s event, Sarver said he is pleased with the field of teams. That includes two teams returning representing Mercyhurst Prep in Erie.

A team from Cleveland will play, and a team from Beaver Falls is slated to make its FIBI debut.

The latest addition is a team from the Cranberry/Mars area, which joined Monday, putting the team total to 20.

“I am very excited about the number of teams,” Sarver said.

“There are quite a few new coaches and teams coming in. We went from thinking that we might not play Tuesday and just play Wednesday through Saturday to knowing that we needed more fields. I am so happy that we have Highlands hosting games.”

Sarver said he hopes a draft of the game schedule, with locations and times, will be finalized by the weekend. There will be multiple games at each of the five fields throughout the week.

Games will be live streamed on the Kittanning-based High Top Sports Network.

In addition to the games, plans also are being finalized for the Old-Timers Game on Thursday, the John “Cossy” Constantino 10K/5K race in Freeport Borough on Saturday morning and the closing all-star game and fireworks Saturday evening.

Sarver continues to stress that even though many of the covid restrictions and regulations in place last summer have been removed or eased, it is good to still practice common sense while attending the games and activities.

For more information on the Freeport International, visit twitter.com/FIBI2018, facebook.com/FreeportInternationalBaseballInvitationalFibi, and its website at Freeportinternationals.com.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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