For the last 25 years during the second week in August, there has been one constant in the city of O’Fallon — the Matt Seipp Classic.
Sixteen baseball and softball teams representing junior high schools throughout Southern Illinois will converge at the O’Fallon Sports Park Aug. 7-10 to determine who will have bragging rights for this coveted pre-season tournament title.
The tourney, originally called the O’Fallon Classic, began in 1994 when Tracy Lauderdale began his second year as a coach in O'Fallon District 90.
“My first year of coaching was 1993, and the district gave me my schedule, and there was only six games on it. I knew we had to play more games to make this program worthwhile," Lauderdale said. "I remember Mike Morrill of State Farm approaching me and asking me if I could start a pre-season tournament, and after the district gave me their blessing, the O’Fallon Classic was born."
The first year, there were 12 baseball teams in the tournament. Lauderdale's team won it.
"Even though we got beat the very first game of the tournament, we were able to come back and win the championship game," he recalled.
The tournament went over so well that is was expanded to 16 teams, and a 16-team softball tournament was added, too.
"I have literally seen over 10,000 players play in this tournament over the years," Lauderdale said. "And although it is a lot of work, it has definitely been worth it.”
In 2014, the name of the tournament was changed to the Matt Seipp Classic, following the untimely death of the former O’Fallon star.
“Matt played on my very first eighth-grade team in 1993, then went on to be my assistant for the next four years before leaving for college," Lauderdale said. "Matt was such a hard worker, and my players fed off of his energy. As I look back on those years, I realize how fortunate I was to look over at first base and watch him coach and realize we were in good hands.”
Seipp would go on to coach at the collegiate level and then make his way back to O’Fallon to lead the town's Legion baseball team.
"This year, to honor Matt’s memory, we are asking people to donate $25 for a Matt Seipp Classic anniversary baseball," Lauderdale said.
The ball has a picture of Seipp on one side and the tournament logo on the other. The $25 donation will then be donated in Seipp’s memory to Children’s Hospital. Anyone interested in making a donation, can make a check payable to Children’s Hospital and send it to the following address: Carriel Junior High School, 451 North Seven Hills Road, O’Fallon, IL 62269, ATTN: Tracy Lauderdale.
As an added bonus, anyone willing to make a donation by Aug. 1, will have their name included on the tournament program.