KEARNS — This week, for the second year in a row, a collection of elite baseball players will congregate in Utah for the Gates Field World Series.
The invitation-only tournament, which starts with pool play games on today and continues through Sunday, will feature two local teams sponsored by the Marshall Gates Foundation, as well as some of the top talent throughout the West. The Utah teams, the Bucks and the defending tournament champion Marshalls, will match up against the D-Bat Mustangs and Austin Wings (Texas), Danville Hoots and So Cal Renegades (Calif.), Albuquerque Baseball (N.M..), and Cherry Creek (Colo.).
"Our goal is to make this the best tournament in the country, and we have a great venue to do that in," Marshall Gates Foundation director Chad Shepherd said, referring to the tournament home of Gates Field at Kearns High.. "Of the participants from last year, 15 guys were selected in this past (Major League Baseball) draft."
Shepherd added that two of those draftees, pitchers Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley of the D-Bat Mustangs, were taken fourth by the Orioles and seventh by the Diamondbacks, respectively.
This year's tournament has no shortage of top talent; both local teams have rosters filled with the state's top players. Leading the long list of names on the Marshalls' roster is BYU pitcher Kolton Mahoney, who was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America squad, and Brady Lail, a Bingham High senior-to-be who was a Deseret News First Team All-State selection and an early signee with the University of Utah.
On the Bucks' side is Dominique Taylor, who played for Salt Lake Community College and was recently drafted by the Astros, and Hayden Nielsen, who will be a senior at Spanish Fork High and was the Deseret News' 4A Baseball MVP this past season.
For the second year, the So Cal Renegades and D-Bat Mustangs again enter the tournament with targets on their backs, even after placing third and fourth, respectively, last summer.
"(They) are probably the teams to beat," Shepherd said, "but it will definitely be a dog fight. All of the teams are very good."
And with the numerous college scouts in the stands, including those from Utah junior colleges up to the top Division I conferences like the Pac-12 and Big 12, the participants will be at the top of their games.
Shepherd added that what separates the Gates Field World Series from other local tournaments is its return to "pure baseball."
"I think we've lost sight of that around here with all of the different leagues," he said. "We play straight American League rules so we eliminate all the free substitutions and pinch runners, and we get back to how baseball was meant to be played."
Pool play games will be played at Gates Field Wednesday through Friday before tournament games begin on Saturday. Non-pool games will be played at SLCC on Friday. The championship game is slated for Sunday at 6 p.m. at Gates Field.
Gates World Series
Today's games at Gates Field
Cherry Creek vs. D-Bat Mustangs, 10:30 a.m.
Utah Bucks vs. Danville Hoots, 1:30 p.m.
So Cal Renegades vs. Albuquerque Baseball, 4:30 p.m.
Austin Wings vs. Utah Marshalls, 7:30 p.m.