Russ Kennedy never played in the East Frankfort Kiwanis Invitational, but that’s just about the only thing he hasn’t done when it comes to the baseball tournament.
Through the years at the EFK Tournament, Kennedy has been a spectator, an umpire and a tournament manager.
On Friday night, Kennedy was honored for his years of service to the tournament and Frankfort youth baseball.
“My first experience with the tournament was as a kid when I came here with my dad,” Kennedy said. “When we got here there were no seats. We came to see Frankfort in the championship; it was Frankfort vs. Caverna.
“We were looking for seats when Dad spotted someone who said, ‘Jack, up here,’ and we had a place to sit. I thought baseball could get no bigger, that there was no grander scale than Frankfort vs. Caverna.”
The 58th annual EFK Tournament starts today with 12U teams playing at Paul Weddle Field at State Stadium, East Frankfort Park and Capitol View Park.
An opening ceremony and home run derby took place Friday at Paul Weddle Field at State Stadium, which will be the site of the 12U semifinals and championship game Sunday.
The semifinals will be at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and the title game is slated for 5 p.m.
Kennedy’s involvement with the tournament continued as he grew, including umpiring the tournament.
“When I was the Little League commissioner for the Parks Department I worked with the EFK,” Kennedy said, “and I managed the tournament about 10 years.
“I’d like to think that anything I did, no matter how small, was because someone sent me to do it. I hope I contributed.
“A lot of people put in a whole lot more time than I did, but I’m proud to be a small part of it.”
Both of Kennedy’s sons, Jack and Scott, umpired baseball at Paul Weddle Field at State Stadium, and Scott is an NCAA umpire who works SEC and ACC games.
“When they were little, we were a baseball family,” Kennedy said. “When there was a baseball strike and no one was playing, we came here.
“We didn’t know anyone playing, but we knew the Braves weren’t playing on TBS and the Reds weren’t playing. We’d spend evenings watching kids play baseball.”
Kennedy likes what he sees with this year’s EFK Tournament, which has 12 12U teams. Last year’s tournament had three teams.
“It’s good to see new energy, new enthusiasm,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been coming here as long as I can remember to watch baseball.”