LYNN — When former St. Mary’s baseball players Joel Karakaedos and Tim Fila paired up to build the first Lynn Invitational Baseball Tournament in 2005, the goal was simply to give area players a platform to perform in front of college coaches.
Fast forward to 2018 and the Lynn Invitational, which begins its 13th annual edition Thursday, has soared to heights co-directors Karakaedos and Fila never thought possible.
“At the time me and Joel were coaching Lynn Senior Babe Ruth and Connery,” Fila, currently an assistant baseball coach at St. Mary’s, said. “We knew kids couldn’t afford to attend the high-cost showcases so we said, ‘let’s do something in Lynn where kids can showcase their talents in front college coaches.'”
Since then, the tournament has expanded to include players from multiple states and Major League scouts.
“It has grown and gotten bigger and bigger,” Fila said. “It’s gotten bigger than we ever expected.”
In fact, a number of players who’ve participated in the Lynn Invitational in past years have signed contracts with Major League teams. That includes Lynn English’s Roberto Reyes and Ben Bowden, Lynn Classical’s Tyler Gauthier, Swampscott’s Ryan January, Peabody’s Patrick Ruotolo and Beverly’s Jack Leathersich.
“It’s pretty cool,” Fila said. “You look at all the guys who’ve been in this showcase that have been drafted. Ben Bowden played here since he was a freshman in high school.”
Getting the invitational to where it currently stands wasn’t easy. Fila credited Joe Iarrobino (Andover Legion coach), Larry O’Brien (Haverhill Legion coach), Steve Freker (Malden baseball coach) and Dan Proto (Cape Cod Senior Babe Ruth) for pitching in and helping the cause.
“They were a big part of helping us get started and they’re still involved,” Fila said. “They’re all loyal and they all do their own thing. They help us network and get kids into this thing.”
This year’s edition includes players from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, Texas, Iowa and Nebraska. Over 200 players will participate and they’re divided into eight teams.
“We have a group coming from Iowa this year,” Fila said. “They have about 8-10 kids coming down on a bus because they want to go to school in New England. Hopefully it works out for them.”
Some of the locals playing in this year’s tournament include Classical’s Brett Bucklin, Jared DeFillipo, Luke Mannion and Aidan Dow, English’s Jomar Moreta and Erick Ubri, St. Mary’s Anthony Bono and Bobby Alcock, Swampscott’s Zach Elwell, Ryan Graciale, Nick Reiser and Max Pegnato, Lynnfield’s Fernando Gonzalez, Clayton Marengi and Matt Fiore, Saugus’ Todd Tringale and Jackson Stanton, Marblehead’s Erick Gonzalez, and Peabody’s Joe Zito and Jonathan Polignone.
“All these kids dream of continuing to play baseball,” Fila said. “We have some Major League scouts who show up as well. Every kid wants to play college baseball so this is an opportunity to showcase what they have. The kids have fun. They meet kids from other states and make friends, they have a good time. All these kids have been recommended from their high school or summer league coaches. There’s great competition.”
Fila said Fraser Field’s the perfect venue for hosting the invitational. In addition to showcasing the talent on the field, hosting the event bodes well for the city of Lynn.
“You go to Fraser Field and that’s a great venue to have something like this,” Fila said. “It’s an all-turf field, stadium seating, everything. Lynn’s very lucky to have it. The (North Shore) Navigators and (general manager) Bill Terlecky have been super supportive. Anything we need, we call him and he takes care of it. (Fraser/Manning facilities manager) Rich Avery has been great. We get a lot of support.
“We get to showcase the city of Lynn as well,” Fila said. “These kids showcase themselves and we bring all these people to the city. These kids are proud of where they play and where they come from. It’s a good thing.”
The Lynn Invitational begins Thursday and runs through Sunday. Thursday and Friday’s schedules feature four games. Player skill workouts take place Saturday and the event concludes Sunday with a pair of prospect games.