Beast of the East is back
WHEELING — The Beast of the East baseball tournament has become a staple of the Ohio Valley sports calendar.
The 34th edition of the event, which was the brainchild of long-time West Liberty baseball coach Bo McConnaughy and BA Crawford, opens Thursday at a field near you and runs daily through July 3.
“The Beast of the East has been a great event for the Ohio Valley,” McConnaughy said.
Once again, the Beast of the East will feature action in three different age groups (19U, 16U, 14U). However, the number of squads converging on the Ohio Valley has been drastically reduced. Only 54 teams are entered in the tournament, which follows a 90-team event last summer and 140 just two summers ago.
“The biggest thing is we’re not the only game in town anymore,” McConnaughy said. “There are tournaments everywhere now. I am not sure we’ll ever get back to the 162 we had years ago.”
Clearly the number of events plays a role, McConnaughy also cited things such as gas prices, the increase in price for lodging and food also playing a role. All of that combined has forced teams to make decisions on just how much they can travel.
Though the Beast of the East has shrunk in terms of teams, McConnaughy is planning the event to continue longterm.
“I believe the future of the event looks good,” McConnaughy said. “BA is stepping back from some of his responsibilities, but he’s not leaving the Beast. I’m still committed to it and we have no plans on giving it up.”
All told, the tournament will feature upwards of 200 games over the course of the four days with between 40 and 50 umpires. Many of the same venues are once again back in the fold with a couple of newcomers, including the all-turf facility at Edison High School.
“The biggest question we get every year is ‘why aren’t there more turf fields?'” McConnaughy said. “I can’t really answer their question, but I do know more turf fields are coming.”
The event will once again attract teams from all over Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and even Canada, but fewer teams are coming from north of the border.
“Canada used to be huge for us,” McConnaughy said. “There were issues during COVID, obviously, with the borders being closed and we’ve just not gotten the influx of Canadian teams that we did.”
Numerous area teams are in the field once again, including Wheeling Post 1, Moundsville Post 3, Wheeling Wild Things, OV Mountaineers, Jefferson County Legion and Madonna to name a few.
“We’re seeing a little bit more local interest,” McConnaughy said. “I think before some of the local teams didn’t think they could win, but to me that’s the kind of tournament I want to be in. I want to play someone (good) and see where you are. The competition our event provides is what attracted many of the teams.”
With fewer teams meant the need for fewer fields, which led to adjusting the schedule to a degree. Each team is still promised seven games, weather permitting, but they could be moving around in terms of playing on multiple fields in the same day.
“We mixed in some different age groups on different fields, so, for instance, I-470 has usually hosted 19Us and it still is, but it also has some younger groups, too.”