Things learned, observed on Days 2-3 of 21st Pacwide softball tournament
Published: May 29, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer continues the decompression from Pacific high school sports process and begins anew the process of getting to know military sports folk again: -- Drash contributed $30,000, May said, to the tournament, paying for shirts and ballcaps to the unit-level players and paid half those teams’ entry fees, provided the bats for the pre-tournament home run derby, balls, trophies, the post-tournament barbeque and the pre-tournament social. "A give back to the military" for Memorial Day weekend, May called it.
-- Just 46 feet separate home plate from the pitcher’s mound in slowpitch softball. That truly leaves pitchers in the line of fire. Many have been hit by batted balls; indeed, some have died while playing the game.
-- Since 2001, the Amateur Softball Association, whose rules govern most Pacific military softball tournaments, has moved to ban some bats that don’t meet its standards, that is to say create too much danger to pitchers from the batted softball. ASA’s most current banned bat list dated May 26 contains 25 illegal bats. Most ASA –sponsored tournaments now mandate that tournament organizers provide bats for all teams, as is done at the All-Armed Forces and ASA national championship level. And some tournaments use restricted-flight balls, the ones that feel like you’re hitting a sock after two or three contacts with the bat.
-- Some pitchers themselves have taken matters into their own hands. At the 21st Pacificwide Open Tournament at Yongsan Garrison, three pitchers wear what most fastpitch and baseball catchers wear – catchers’ masks, to prevent facial injuries and possible concussions.
-- "I have a pretty face," said Misawa Jets pitcher Kiel Kauffeld, only half-jokingly. With the Pac-wide using non-restricted flight balls that are as hard as diamonds, "you don’t have a whole lot of time to react" to a batted ball, said the 26-year-old staff sergeant from Hawley, Pa.
-- Ben Whitehead of the Yokota Warriors is another masked mound warrior. "It’s for personal protection," said the 45-year-old tech sergeant from Cincinnati. "It adds more confidence for me to get in front of the ball and knock it down. Protect yourself."
-- "You can take shots off the body all you want. The face doesn’t take it as well," added Alexander Miller of host Yongsan Garrison, a 30-year-old staff sergeant from Fayetteville, N.C.
-- On Thursday, Katie Darby was on the mound when her Seoul American Falcons stunned defending champion Kadena for the first Far East High School Girls Softball Tournament title in school history. Darby earned MVP honors in the fastpitch event.
-- So, what did she do to celebrate? Well, partly. Less than 24 hours after first baseman Jenna Jackson squeezed the final out at Kadena Air Base’s Four Diamonds, Darby was in the dugout wearing the Yongsan Garrison uniform, one of two Falcons playing for the Lady Rebels in the 21st Pac-wide.
--It does prove challenging, Darby said, adapting to the slower speed of the slowpitch game. "Batting, definitely," she said. "You try not to bat too early, popping up or fouling out." Her Rebels went 3-1 in pool play and are still alive in the knockout bracket of the double-elimination tournament, standing five wins away from the title.
-- A year ago, the 20th Pac-wide schedule was marred by 38 forfeits in both the men’s and women’s divisions. As a way to avert such problems in the future, the tournaments’ organizers instituted a company-level division for men, which allowed eight unit teams to play on their level while the 16 open- and post-level teams, could beat up on each other without unit-level teams simply giving up and not showing up for a schedule game against the "wolves."
-- "It’s good. I like it," said longtime International Guzzlers coach Tom Costello.
-- It seemed a formality that the two powerhouse, All-Armed Forces veteran-laden open teams, the Scrapalators and defending champion American Legion, would reach Monday’s best-of-three final. "But once you get past them, everything’s equal," Costello said. "With the club division, this is a much tougher tournament. There’s more parity. In the open divisions, anybody can beat anybody."
-- Normally, it’s the birthday boy who gets the gifts. On Sunday, while celebrating his 46th birthday, Tommy May of tournament sponsor Drash, a military clothier, spent the day giving as well.
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer continues the decompression from Pacific high school sports process and begins anew the process of getting to know military sports folk again:
-- Drash contributed $30,000, May said, to the tournament, paying for shirts and ballcaps to the unit-level players and paid half those teams’ entry fees, provided the bats for the pre-tournament home run derby, balls, trophies, the post-tournament barbeque and the pre-tournament social. "A give back to the military" for Memorial Day weekend, May called it.