The second annual All-American Lighthouse Classic baseball showcase and tournament is different things to different people.

For youth players looking to make an impression, the College Showcase Camp on Thursday and games Friday through Monday are a chance to show their skills in front of more than 20 college coaches.

For the teams, the tournament provides competitive opportunities at quality venues like the University of Southern Maine, St. Joesph’s College, The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach and historic Goodall Park in Sanford.

And, by design, the southern Maine locales and built-in social activities will be more pleasing to the parents.

“Most of these tournaments in New England are in Massachusetts in some remote field and they all look the same,” said Jason Lariviere, the baseball director of the Saco-based Southern Maine River Rats, which has three teams in the tournament. “For out-of-state teams, it’s definitely attractive to have the keynote field in Old Orchard Beach.”

“It’s not just a traditional baseball tournament where there are winners and losers and then you go home,” said Mark Cooke, the owner/president of Firecracker Baseball, the company behind the Lighthouse Classic.

On Thursday, more than 55 players will participate in a sold-out clinic where they will get assessed by and receive feedback from more than 20 college coaches. The clinic is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. at The Ballpark, but rain may force a move to the USM Field House.

Games begin Friday at nine fields, including the Wainwright Complex and Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, and Gorham High.

This year, 52 teams in four age groups (13U, 14/15U, 16/17U and 18/19U) will participate, up from 36 teams in 2018. Teams from Ohio, New Brunswick and each of the New England states are expected to attend. Besides the River Rats teams, the Maine Sluggers 18/19U team out of Brewer is the only other team from Maine.

“Our mission is tied to economic development,” said Sheila Brennan Nee, director of the Maine Sports Commission, which is actively supporting the Lighthouse Classic. “Those tournaments that tend to bring teams from away help strengthen the host communities.”

Cooke said almost 600 room nights have been booked at area hotels, with almost 2,000 people expected to attend.

A former coach at Johnson and Wales University and Dean College, Cooke started the Firecracker brand 12 years ago, organizing one tournament in Providence, Rhode Island. This is his third year promoting what he refers to as destination showcase tournaments, with eight sites in the Northeast. He said his plan is to keep coming back to southern Maine for years to come, with hopes of adding softball in 2021.

In addition to competition and the promise of college coaches on hand, the Lighthouse Classic includes online and in-person social interaction.

“We have social media coordinators who are doing interviews with players, coaches, and then getting that out on multiple platforms,” Cooke said. “There’s no one else doing that.”

Lighthouse Classic participants are also eligible to purchase tickets for Saturday’s Portland Sea Dogs game, which will include a barbecue and VIP seating. More than 125 Sea Dog tickets had been sold by Wednesday.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.