There isn’t any event on the local sports calendar that means more to me than the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament.
That statement isn’t meant to disparage any of the other county championships, and it certainly doesn’t mean this is the only event I care deeply about or look forward to each year.
But, you have to understand, this is personal.
Nick Muller was a co-worker, and nobody would be more surprised that a tourney in his honor is still going strong into its 13th edition than him. Those of you who regularly read this column are well aware of the kind of kid Nick was, but it’s always worth repeating.
His enthusiasm for life in general, sports in particular and baseball specifically was unmatched. And he always had a smile when someone needed it most.
The Muller tourney has taken on something of a family reunion feel over the years. I’ll run back into people next week who I haven’t seen or spoken to since last April, and that’s one of the true joys of this event.
But the tournament is about more than reminiscing and watching some great high school baseball. In fact, it’s about more than Nick.
Created in 2001 after Nick’s death in a car crash the previous summer, the tournament was meant to be a fitting way to honor the 16-year-old’s memory. Through the hard work and dedication of people like Anderson baseball coach Terry Turner and Nick’s parents, Bob and Kathy, it’s unfailingly done just that.
But it’s also raised precious awareness about a topic near and dear to Nick’s heart — organ donation.
Nick was a donor, and his brother Josh has made a career out of supporting the cause in his adopted home state of Illinois.
Nick’s death spawned the creation of D.O.A.G. (Donate Organs Adolescents and Grown-ups), a student-run club at Anderson High School dedicated to his memory. And the Muller tourney has become an important fundraiser for the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization (IOPO).
As always, volunteers will be on hand throughout the tournament next week to hand out information on IOPO and how you can get involved.
As for the games themselves, there’s a new look this time around. For the first time, the tournament features nine schools.
Frankton will visit Elwood on April 8 to get things started, and the traditional doubleheaders will take place April 9 — weather permitting — at Pendleton Heights and Memorial Field.
There will be another one-game round in the consolation bracket April 10 before play resumes in traditional fashion April 11.
Fingers crossed, April 13 will feature four games at Memorial Field to conclude the week’s festivities.
Rain has prevented a true “Muller Saturday” in each of the past two years.
So long as Mother Nature cooperates, come out and watch the county’s best baseball players put on a show.
Learn about an important cause.
And remember a former high school catcher who still serves as an inspiration for us all.