Things learned, observed at Pacificwide Open Softball Tournament version 22.0, Day 3.0
Published: May 27, 2012
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer makes his way around the Lombardo FourPlex ballfields, still exhausted from the Far East tournament trials and travails.
She first graced the diamonds at Yongsan Garrison when the three Lombardo Field diamonds faced inward and one had to walk long lengths to view one of three standings boards that weren’t always kept up to date.
Nineteen years after playing shortstop for Osan Air Base alongside her All-Air Force infield mate Debra Collins, Cheryl Trapnell has returned to the Pacificwide Open Softball Tournament, now in its 22nd run, and at 51 looks every bit the most decorated player in All-Armed Forces history.
“I’m just a pickup player on this team,” insists Trapnell, who’s playing various infield spots for the defending champion Yard Busters of Okinawa.
Sure. A player who’s been named All-Air Force 20 times, All-Armed Forces 14 times and All-American nine times AND coached the All-Air Force team to three gold medals and a silver in her four years at the helm, right, she’s a pickup player.
A retired Air Force senior master sergeant now living in one of the Air Force’s softball hubs, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Trapnell became acquainted with the Yard Busters’ sponsor, Jeff Jackson of DRASH, a military clothier, during a tournament at Lake Buena Vista, Disney’s southeastern headquarters.
He’d told Trapnell that Yard Busters needed an extra player, because another add-on player had suffered a torn ACL, and would Trapnell come aboard, on three conditions: She’d need a passport, she’d need to get off work and would have to pitch.
“I can do 2½ of those things,” Trapnell said. Through Sunday’s games, she’d not been required to pitch; still, she was happy to be back in Korea and playing for last year’s champion.
“What an opportunity,” Trapnell said. “And Yard Busters is a good team.”
Once more, the Pac-wide resembles a who’s who of military softball players. Besides Trapnell, other decorated All-Armed Forces foot soldiers include:
-- Chris Simpson, Osan Air Base, nine-times All-Air Force, four-times All-Armed Forces, two years as an Air Force assistant coach.
-- Mike Horton, Osan Air Base, four times All-Air Force, two times an Air Force assistant coach.
-- Harold Branch, Camp Humphreys, three-times All-Air Force.
-- Wanda Graham, Kunsan Air Base, four times All-Air Force.
-- Autumn Brown, Kunsan Air Base, All-Air Force in 2002.
-- Kurt Tom, Kunsan Air Base, All-Air Force in 2006.
-- Leonard Myers, Osan Air Base, All-Air Force from 2008-10.
-- Christopher Markey, Osan Air Base, seven times All-Air Force, five times All-Armed Forces.
-- Justin James, Misawa Air Base, All-Air Force in 2010.
-- Kiel “Mr. Mask” Kauffeld, Misawa Air Base, All-Air Force a year ago.
-- Kane Mueller, Misawa Air Base, All-Air Force in 2004 and 2006.
-- Elmer Mason, Scrapalators (Fort Bragg, N.C.), 10-times All-Army.
-- Mike Docwhat, American Legion (Hawaii), nine-times All-Army, five times All-Armed Forces.
-- Gary Chaney, American Legion (Las Vegas), six times All-Marine Corps.
-- Josh Wiggs, American Legion (Biloxi Air Force Base, Miss.), seven times All-Air Force, five times All-Armed Forces.
-- Chadd Malin, American Legion (Kadena Air Base, Okinawa), five times All-Air Force.
They come for miles, still, to participate in the tournament, some from as far away as the States. The question being, who came farthest this year? Reggie Myers of the Scrapalators, the defending men’s champion, traveled from Virginia Beach; Lynell McLeod and Trenton Simms each journeyed from Moody Air Force Base in southeastern Georgia.
Why come so far for so few days of softball? Aside from the camaraderie and the steady flow of … um … sports beverages … players get a platform on which to sharpen and fine tune their game and test their abilities against other teams of equal or superior worth.
“It’s a higher level of competition” as is the All-Armed Forces tournament, Mueller said. “They play hard. Everybody plays hard. It betters your game all around. Hit balls come at you a lot faster. And you have some pretty good pitchers, who throw some nasty knuckleballs.”
Simpson, on a one-year assignment to Osan, could become the first airman to be named to the All-Air Force team in parts of three decades if he’s selected for Air Force camp.
The Pac-wide is the granddaddy of ’em all in terms of regional open softball tournaments, now in its 22nd year. DRASH, which began sponsoring the tournament in 2010, now has plans to mirror the Pac-wide with a similar tournament in Europe starting later this year.
The Reforger Classic, named for the NATO dual-basing exercise Reforger/Crested Cap, is scheduled for July 5-8 at Grafenwoehr, Germany, and according to the aforementioned Jackson of DRASH, 50 teams, to include men’s open/post-level, company-level and women’s teams, are already signed up and ready to play.
In years past, players such as former All-Air Force Gary Lafon, would travel from as far away as Germany to play at Pac-wide. Would anybody from the Pacific journey to Grafenwoehr to play in the Reforger Classic?
Speaking of Mason, a big, big shoutout to his wife, Val, who has won her battle over breast cancer! The Scrapalators two years ago wore at the tournament’s opening ceremony pink t-shirts that said: "Scrapalators vs. Breast Cancer. Val, we love you. We’re home and we’ve got the hammer. Bring it on!"
Mason and his wife had been medevaced in mid-May 2010 from Yongsan Garrison, where Mason had been assigned, to Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii where she underwent surgery; she paid for Mason’s ticket back to Yongsan to be with his team and join them in wearing the pink jerseys during the 2010 tournament.
He credits all the prayers, thoughts and positive energy that so many sent their way, as well as the power of faith. Valerie Mason has been cancer-free for a year, said Mason, a 46-year-old chief warrant officer third class.
“It resets your values and your priorities, your spiritual faith,” Mason said. As a Catholic, Mason said he feels the ordeal “absolutely” brought him closer to God.
Val, 44, is also close to getting ready to go back to work, Mason said. The Masons have two children, Makenzie, 10, and Austin, 14, each of whom are sports-minded, he said.
There will be a change in how the champion teams and players will be rewarded for taking the top prize in the men’s open and women’s divisions, said retired Army Sfc. Ralph Hodgdon of the Scrapalators, who works for DRASH out of Fort Benning, Ga.
Instead of the standard trophies and medals of past years, 18 rings with ruby insets each will be presented to the championship teams during Monday’s closing ceremonies.
Also, white bats with the words Warfighter embossed on them are being sold at field side at the Lombardo FourPlex, with $25 per bat going toward a fund established to benefit the Wounded Warriors Softball Team, now on tour throughout the United States. The goal, Hodgdon said, is to present the team a $25,000 check in August. For more, click here.