Pacwide tournament was more than just about softball
Published: March 3, 2011
To the Pacific, indeed worldwide, softball community: I’m still in dogged pursuit of the reasons and rationale behind the cancellation of the Granddaddy of ’em all, the oldest and proudest softball tournament in the region. Hard to believe, the million-dollar softball complex will sit idle, as apparently will I, on Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 2002.
Many a reason, much speculation, have been bandied about, both here and on Facebook, wondering about the reasons. I’ve heard everything from legalities to fiduciary concerns to, very simply, the little value added to the community. The longer the silence, the more the speculation and rumour will be hurled on those sites and in other message boards such as SeriousSoftball (dot) com. That’s what social networking does; it furthers the curiosity, conversation and wonder about what’s really afoot here.
As to the idea that such softball tournaments don’t add anything to the community, may I remind one and all what that type of competition ultimately leads to: The All-Armed Forces softball tournaments, scheduled for September at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
Tournaments such as the Pacificwide for years have served as a starting ground, a testing ground, a proving ground for players new to interservice circuits but who would love to represent their service while playing in the Armed Forces national championship at the same time. It’s also a way for those who’ve been to “the show” to sharpen up their game. It’s a chance for coaches of the various All-Service teams to come scout the “next big things” in Pacific softball, or from wherever else the players might travel.
For a couple of years in the mid-1980s, the Amateur Softball Association actually sanctioned the old San Miguel Tournament as its Pacific Interservice Championship. Don’t take my word for it; you can find a story quoting then ASA Pacific Metro commissioner Don McKinney about it.
Players who sparkle at the Pacificwide, well, their names filter to those who run the various All-Service tryout camps. Then, those All-Service chiefs send inquiries to those players’ home bases and the players in turn send their resumes up the chain, to have them blessed by their units, fitness centers and parent commands, all the way on to Air Force Services at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; the Navy’s MWR command at Millington, Tenn.; Marine Corps Community Services headquarters at Quantico, Va.; and the Army’s training camp headquarters at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.
Once selected for an All-Service camp, the soldier, sailor, airman and Marine not only must maintain their job skills, grooming and uniform standards as well as train hard to try to make their teams … they also visit area high schools in an effort to recruit the newest members of the world’s greatest military. “Gee, you mean I can serve in the military and play softball for my service? Cool!” you might hear a student say.
It’s also a solid retention tool. For the airman who may have played college ball, who’s new to a duty section that might include an All-Air Force player will see the selection process from the desk next to his, and think to himself, “Wow, talk about a good deal. I’d like to get in on some of that.” And he himself the next spring goes out for the post team and his process of reaching the top of Mount Armed Forces begins.
The All-Armed Forces sports industry is one supported by some $1.75 billion in taxpayer funding. In order for that industry to succeed, it must be supported by MWRs, MCCS, Army Community Services and Air Force Support throughout the world, up to and including tournaments such as the Pacificwide and the July 4th Firecracker Shootout on Okinawa.
If that support continues to dwindle and take more cuts, then you harm that $1.75 billion industry, you harm recruiting and retention and you end up with more embarrassments such as the Marine Corps took last summer when it could not field a women’s team for the All-Armed Forces softball tournament.
I would utterly hate to think that that’s what is at work with the cancellation of the Pacificwide after a 21-year run at Yongsan and a 44-year run in total since its inception in the Philippines in 1967. I’m sure I speak for more than myself when I say, what else are ballplayers from Yongsan to Vicenza to think when they lose a valuable preparation tool and are left to wait and wonder why it was taken away?
There can, will and must be something left for the elite athlete to help build their game if they're to compete at the highest level of military softball. Company-level leagues, which too have been shortened and truncated throughout the years, don't provide that elite level of competition. I don't speak for myself here. Listen to the voices of the troops themselves who've been to that level. I'm sure they'd agree.