On Wednesday, the sunny, breezy first day of spring, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young walked up to a podium inside the Warehouse at Camden Yards and started to sniff the air.
Young asked an audience that included area high school players and coaches, Orioles team officials and local politicians if they got a whiff of what he was smelling, too, before exclaiming: "That's the smell of baseball in the air."
At the Wednesday morning news conference, Young announced a partnership with the Orioles and Major League Baseball to hold the third annual President's Cup baseball tournament in the city. Sixteen local high schools, nine public and seven private, will compete for the chance to play in the championship game at Camden Yards on April 13.
Young also announced that four softball teams would play exhibition games this year, a new addition to the tournament.
"In the previous two years, we've seen so many incredible things," Young said. "I'm not just talking about come-from-behind wins, diving catches and clutch baseball hits. I'm talking about students from different backgrounds and different neighborhoods and different mindsets sharing the same passion, sportsmanship, dedication, healthy competition — and all through the game of baseball."
The tournament begins Saturday with four games. The second and third rounds are scheduled for next week.
No. 3 Archbishop Curley, No. 10 Gilman, No. 15 Mount St. Joseph and Digital Harbor were given automatic berths into the third round.
Games during the first three rounds will be held at various locations throughout the city. The tournament semifinals are scheduled for April 6 at Johns Hopkins.
"It's an honor and a privilege for the Orioles to be a part of this," Orioles ownership representative Louis Angelos said. "You see the power of baseball throughout the world. We have the World Baseball Classic being played now, bringing countries together through great competition. You see it on this local level — statewide level, really — bringing schools from all over the area to compete."
The softball games — Digital Harbor against Cristo Rey Jesuit and Dunbar against Institute of Notre Dame — will be played April 6 at Swann Park. There will be no championship between the winners, but Young said a full softball tournament is being planned for next year.
"The spirit of this tournament is about more than just competition. It is a chance for young people of various backgrounds to get together, get to know each other and to discover how much they have in common," Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt said.
Young said that ideal is reflected in a documentary about last year's tournament directed by Julie Simon, an associate professor at the University of Baltimore, and sponsored by the council president. The documentary, called "The President's Cup," will premiere during an on-campus viewing at Wright Theater in the University of Baltimore Student Center on Tuesday, April 2 at 6 p.m.
In the meantime, Young, who posed with the Orioles mascot and players and coaches from teams such as Gilman and Dunbar at the end of the news conference, is pumped for the first ping of the bat at the President's Cup.
"This is great for Baltimore's kids and this is great for baseball," Young said, no longer sniffing the air.
2013 President's Cup schedule
(at Mount St. Joseph)
Southwestern vs. City, noon
Mervo vs. MATHS, 3:30
(at Cardinal Gibbons)
Dunbar vs. Coppin Academy, noon
W.E.B. DuBois vs. Patterson, 3:30
(at Archbishop Curley)
Southwestern/City vs. St. Frances, 4
Dunbar/Coppin Academy vs. Boys' Latin, 4
(at Druid Hill Park)
Mervo/MATHS vs. Poly, 4
W.E.B. DuBois/Patterson vs. Friends, 4
(at Swann Park)
Dunbar/Coppin Academy/Boys' Latin vs. No. 3 Archbishop Curley, 3:30
W.E.B. DuBois/Patterson/Friends vs. Digital Harbor, 6:30
(at Druid Hill Park)
Southwestern/City/St. Frances vs. No. 15 Mount St. Joseph, 4
(at Medfield Heights ES)
Mervo/MATHS/Poly vs. No. 10 Gilman, 4
(at Johns Hopkins)
Semifinals at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
(at Camden Yards)
(at Swann Park)
Digital Harbor vs. Cristo Rey Jesuit, noon
Dunbar vs. Institute of Notre Dame, noon