From its humble but motivated early steps as a slowpitch softball tournament provider to today’s multi-sport menu of impactful youth and college events, Triple Crown Sports has evolved into a national and international force in creating memories through competition.
Fully engaged with plans to move forward, and grateful for the partners who made it happen, Triple Crown Sports will celebrate its 40th anniversary through the 2022 event season, including retrospective content on its website and special merchandise to commemorate the journey.
Triple Crown Sports was founded in 1982 by David King, who along with his wife, Annette, had complained to a softball tourney organizer about the quality of the event. Told unceremoniously to do better if he could, the Kings plotted their vision on the trip home, finishing the work while sitting in the driveway of their home. The debut was a 32-team tourney in Meeker, CO., and two events were added next year to create the “Triple Crown” format.
Nearly 55,000 slowpitch teams would compete in TCS events over the next 27 years; before then, however, King had foreseen the promise and enthusiasm for youth sports, with TCS firing up youth fastpitch and youth baseball programming in 1992. In and around the turn to the 2000’s, Triple Crown also took command of college basketball events like the Preseason/Postseason WNIT and the Cancun Challenge.
The college connection continued with the 2017 introduction of the NIVC and NISC, NCAA D-I tournaments built on the Postseason WNIT model, along with the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, which started in 2015.
“Simply put, it’s a complete blessing to still be involved with creating events and doing what I love after 40 years in this business,” said founder and owner of Triple Crown Sports David King. “Triple Crown Sports will continue to evolve and produce meaningful events for its customers. It is baked into the culture here, to chase after something special, to draw people together and then keep working to make the experience better over time.”
Triple Crown’s insight on the youth market blossomed over the years as well – the fastpitch Colorado 4th of July event now attracts more than 1,000 10u through 18u teams to Colorado’s Front Range and is arguably the nation’s most important college recruiting opportunity in the sport. And in baseball, the Omaha SlumpBuster is another must-attend moment for young players, with 736 teams attending in 2019 and about 650 teams in tow for 2022 for an event in full rebound mode after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Triple Crown also produces the TC Volleyball NIT, which is contested over President’s Day Weekend at the Kansas City Convention Center. The NIT has become the most challenge testing ground for the nation’s top club programs and also attracts hundreds of college coaches on the hunt for recruitable talent.
Decades later, with Triple Crown Sports involved with numerous high-profile youth events and a large footprint in the worlds of college basketball, softball and volleyball, it’s hard to believe adult slowpitch softball was the root of it all.
But that’s the case – Dave King and his wife, Annette, were so disappointed in a tournament experience in 1982 that they cooked up their own vision and ran a 32-team event in Meeker, CO., adding two more to the menu the next year and informally calling that the Triple Crown with two events held in Grand Junction and one in Steamboat Springs.
By 1986, 400 teams are playing in the series, and Dave quits his job in the insurance industry in 1987 to formally launch TCS as a company. National sponsors start to get involved as the TCS model catches fire with thousands of teams jumping in every year. An international touch is added with a tournament in Puerto Vallarta in 1991, and in 1993 ESPN televises the TCS finals in Steamboat Springs. More than 3,500 teams play in 132 tournaments; events are started in Australia and England.
Through all of this, Triple Crown is also developing and dominating arenas of youth baseball and fastpitch softball, while running college events in the US and internationally. That diversification proves very wise, as the run of adult slow-pitch was beginning to slow.
After 27 years, Triple Crown closed down its slow-pitch softball division – about 1,600 tournaments were produced by TCS, servicing about 54,000 teams. But the world had changed; adult slow-pitch numbers were 20% of what they were in 1995.
As Triple Crown’s impact in slowpitch grew through the late 1980’s, the company created a mascot named Jacker, a cartoon bear built to “jack” the ball over the fence for a home run. Iron-on stickers made up some of the early merchandise that TCS offered. Jacker evolved into a hyper-muscled creature as the boom in health-and-fitness swept the country; he eventually appeared on other Triple Crown ventures, such as 3-on-3 soccer.
Limited edition 40th Anniversary items will be on sale at the 2022 Colorado 4th of July & World Series baseball events.
Take a journey through Triple Crown's storied 40-year history on our 40th Anniversary home page with an interactive timeline.