Archive for Thursday, July 29, 2004

Softball fever

National Softball tournament invades Field of Dreams

July 29, 2004

Softball fever struck Basehor last week for the fourth year, and all preliminary accounts say this was the best it's been received.

The Basehor Field of Dreams hosted the American Fastpitch Association's Under-10 National Tournament from July 20-25 and featured teams from eight states including Kansas, Illinois, California, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

Field of Dreams complex manager Jeremy McDowell said the 44 teams hosted is the most the tournament has ever had. Despite the increase in teams, McDowell said the tournament went the best it ever has.

"Every year we learn from our mistakes, and we've just gotten better at running these tournaments," he said. "It's the smoothest national tournament we've had. We had teams from California and Texas and from eight states altogether. The reaction we've gotten from e-mails we've gotten from coaches has been tremendous."

Paul Cowal, the head coach of AM Mechanical, the host team of the tournament, said the atmosphere was "like a carnival" and that his team enjoyed it "100 percent."

"I think (the tournament) was very well put together," he said. "Jeremy always does a good job, and he did a good job putting this one together. The competitions were really fun for our team, and it was good to see these girls and how much talent they had at such an early age...They had fireworks, a dunk tank and other things to keep the kids entertained, and it really was like a carnival with all of things going on."

In addition to the fun stuff going on during the games, the opening ceremony featured fireworks and a speech by Basehor-Linwood head softball coach Susan Mayberry. Mayberry said she had several basic lessons she wanted softball to teach the young players.

"There were five big things I hit upon during my speech. Sportsmanship, encouraging teammates, hustle, having fun and meeting new friends," she said. "Then I congratulated them all on their accomplishment, because it really is a big deal to make it to a national tournament."

Cowal said the biggest highlight for his team was being the host team and all the attention that come with that position.

"I think that being the host team was a lot of fun for them," he said. "They got to lead all of the teams into the stadium, kind of like the Olympics, and they got the majority of the attention at the beginning."

McDowell said preparations for the tournaments began in March but increased exponentially two weeks before the tournament. He said that keeping the focus on the little details and organization is what is important in setting up such a large tournament.

"About two weeks before the beginning of the tournament we begin preparations for the complex itself and we set up a guest speaker," he said. "It's really getting a lot of the little things ready to go. In the first part of June we work with the coaches so they know what they need to do. We probably contact them three or four times a week to let them know all the things they need, such as hotel information and other things like that."

Despite all of the amenities, the teams were there to play softball, and Cowal said the level of competition was very high.

"Anytime you got to a national tournament a lot of the teams are going to bring a lot of talent to the tournaments and everyone has to bring that talent out to compete," he said.

AM Mechanical did not have a great showing, losing five games, but Cowal said the team competed hard and was a few mistakes away from a better showing.

"I think we lost our games by an average of four runs," he said. "We were in all of the ball games, but our bats were kind of weak and we kept making a bunch of little mistakes and we lost the games."

But despite the competitive nature of the games, McDowell said he actually refused the offer to host an older division's tournament because the fun factor involved with younger players.

"It's just fun to do the 10-year old national tournament because of the kids playing in it," he said. "Especially when they get older, the games are more about winning. Not that it isn't about that now, but the kids are going out there and having fun. They actually asked us if we wanted to host an older division, and we didn't accept because we wanted to have the 10-year olds."

McDowell said the Field of Dreams complex won't find out if it will be hosting the tournament again until November, but Mayberry said the job McDowell has done in the past four editions of the tournament should be more than enough to warrant another appearance in Basehor for the tournament.

"Jeremy does a great job with that tournament," she said. "He does not get enough credit for putting that tournament together for four years in a row. He's really helped revive softball in this area."

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