by Ho Hoffman 30. September 2010 23:53

DALTON, GEORGIA – “This one is for you Doug!!” 

It has been a rough year for the Indiana Legends starting with January 2010 when long time sponsor and manager Doug Webb passed away. However, Dan Reynolds stepped in and kept the team together as they tried to rebound from a  5-27 record in 2009 and become competitive.

“It really hit us hard when we lost Doug,” Reynolds said. “it just wasn’t the same playing ball this summer and it showed in our record as we were under .500 and had only one win in our two tournaments leading up to Dalton.”

That scenario changed in Dalton as the Legends went from a five-and-out tournament team to a National Champion.

“I can’t explain what happened,” Reynolds said. “I would like to think Doug was helping us, sort of like the movie ‘Angels in the Outfield.’ Balls that used to be outs for us became hits and balls that used to be hits for our opponents were now outs.”

The way the tournament started it didn’t look like things had changed for Webb’s old team as they edged Memphis 15-13, beat the Blue Chips 16-9 and were destroyed by the Chicago Hitmen 24-9.

“After the game with the Hitmen, I was hoping we may finish third or fourth,” Reynolds said. “I just didn’t think we could match up with the Hitmen, they were such an awesome team.”

But then the nine team double elimination tournament started and the Legends’ fortunes changed. First came a 25-18 win over Memphis, followed by a payback 26-10 win over the Hitmen and then the turning point game.

“We played the Indy Fog,” Reynolds said. “It was about the sixth time we had played them this year and had never beat them”

But that was then and this was now. The Legends tied the game with the Fog in the seventh with three runs and plated eight in the extra inning to edge their long time rivals 28-27. With that game out of the way, Webb’s gang rolled over the Kentuckiana 60’s 24-8 in the finals for their first ever  championship.

Leading the way for the 60AA National champs were MVP Lynn Montgomery (.760), who pitched the entire tournament with a dislocated finger on his pitching hand. Other All-Star selections were: Ed Jackson (.720), Dan Londeree (.720), Jerry Owens (.727), Jim Norris (.750) and Gary Hebert (.670).

“I know  #46 (Webb) was watching us and helping us, even if it was just emotionally,” Reynolds said. “I just wish he could have been here to hold the championship trophy.”

As for the tournament itself, Reynolds also felt it was very special, especially the opening ceremony.

“That was very inspirational,” Reynolds said., “We also appreciated the SPA organization honoring Doug before the start of the tournament, that made the tournament that more special.” 

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by Ho Hoffman 30. September 2010 23:51

DALTON, GEORGIA - The Alamo City Legends went on a hot streak in the 60 AAA double elimination bracket winning five straight to claim the 60 AAA Spa National Championship in the eleven-team field.

In a way it was a surprising showing  in the tournament segment because in pool play they won one and lost two, losing to the Chicago Classic Bobcats 25-6 and Michigan’s Doc Martens/Park  Street Tavern  37-24.

“We played all our players in the pool portion of the tournament,” Alamo manager Robert Marichalar said. “Everybody pays to come to this tournament so everybody plays in the pool portion. When we play in the tournament we maybe become a little more selective.”

The Legends started the tournament portion beating Ideal Georgia’s Ideal development  Concepts 23-17, USA Patriots (Ok) 23-12 and the Dallas Spurs 29-14 before facing Big Daddy/Indiana Legends who they had to beat twice for the championship.

“I saw Big Daddy play earlier and I knew they would be a tough test,” Marichalar said. “In the first inning against us the first two batters hit it out over 340-feet and we knew we were going to have a battle.”

In the first game (winners bracket finals), Alamo City let Big Daddy score five runs in the last inning but rallied back with a six spot in the home half for the 20-19 win.

The championship game after Big Daddy came back through the losers’ bracket was almost a replay.

Alamo City, which won the 55AAA in 2004, tied it in the seventh at 18-18 and won it in the bottom of the eighth 20-19 on a bases loaded drive to the fence by Earl Satterwhite .

“Satterwhite could hardly walk he was hurting so bad,” the manager said. “But he went 3-for-3 in that game and had the winning hit.”

Other players who had good tournaments for the Legends were SPA Hall-of Fame SS Eddie Arevalos, tournament MVP outfielder  Bob Suba (.720) and Denis Abernathy, who was 15-of-16 before being injured early in the tournament portion.

All-tournament players were Rockey Crews, John Beard, Sr., Jack Boykin, Eli Garza, Richard Keihlov and Dale Stollewek.

“Not just because we won, but this was a tremendous tournament,” Marichalar said. “The Hampton where we stayed was the best hotel we have ever had in regards to service and accommodations. SPA just does a great job on running a tournament. I think all the other organizations could learn from them.”

Marichalar thought the opening ceremonies was another highlight of the trip.

“It was just a class tournament from start to finish,” he said. “We certainly are looking forward to returning next year.”

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by Ho Hoffman 30. September 2010 23:01

DALTON, GEORGIA – The SPA National 70 AA Champion Michigan Masters proved that perseverance will eventually pay off in good things.

The Masters had never won more than one game in any of their previous tournaments (Buckeye Classic, Akron;  Columbus, Ohio;  Shebyville,Indiana) but came up roses going 3-and-0 in pool play and undefeated in the double elimination in winning the three-team 70AA title.

“I would like to think we were that much better than the other teams (MMD Construction Louisiana and Mid-Georgia Seniors) but we were just lucky,” Masters’ manager Rene Brooks said. “We lost on the mercy rule twice in Shelbyville’,  blew an 11-run lead in Columbus, Ohio and lost the game and in Akron we were still AAA and finished eighth out of eight 70’s AAA teams.”

“Did we think we had a chance of winning the SPA Nationals when we came here,” Brooks asked, “The answer would be “No””.

Lest anyone thinks the Masters are related to the “little Sisters of the Poor” when it comes to senior softball, think again. The majority of the players have been playing for a long time. Senior softballers probably well remember  Miller’s, Cornwell Plumbing, W Tailgaterz and Morans, all outstanding teams from the Michigan area who played in the 55’s, 60’s and 65’s divisions over the past few years.

“Yeah, most of us played with those teams but usually on the lower end of the roster,” Brooks said. “Every time one of those teams decided to upgrade, we were the guys who were dropped to make room for the new players.”

This past year the W Tailgaterz split in two playing AAA as The Boys of Sumer and The Michigan Masters. The Masters did start out as AAA but were lowered to AA after their showing in the Buckeye Classic.

Don’t get the impression the masters are a bunch of stiffs that is far from the truth as evidenced by the showing in Dalton.  In their final two games in the tournament they beat Mid-Georgia  13-3 and 19-4.

The Masters’ pitcher Dave Beebe won the tournament MVP award and also making the All-Tournament team were Chico Senczyszyn who  hit .889 ( 16-of-18),  second baseman Jerry Kopacz, who sparkled on defense and 1b Russ Kraft, who only hit .600 with his bat but hit .950 with his constant chattering.

“We were trying to find some duct tape to quiet Kraft down,” Brooks said.

The only downside of the tournament for Brooks was the lack of teams in the 70AA.

“We played in the Buckeye Classic and there were seventeen 70’s teams and there were seven in Columbus and at least six in Shelbyville,” Brooks said. “Maybe it is the economy that kept teams away but they sure missed a great tournament. It was to our benefit though and we are really enjoying the championship awards.”

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by Ho Hoffman 30. September 2010 22:55

DALTON, GEORGIA - The 75AAA Pfeiffer GreySox team (Jenison, Michigan) can never be accused of rushing things but when they do, look out.

Manager Jud Gebben’s team picked the right time to peak this season bouncing back from a 1-and-2 pool play mark to sweep the three-team field in the double elimination 75AAA Division bracket.

“We got off to a slow start in pool play,” Gebben said. “We didn’t play that badly only losing by a few runs to teams like Joseph’s, Mitchell’s and Antiques of KC. We finally figured it out that if we wanted to win this thing we had to score at least 20 runs a game because 18 and 19 wasn’t working.”

The light bulb went off in the double elimination tournament as they dropped S.W. Stars 24-8 in the first game, followed with a 22-18 win over the Antiques of KC and finished with a 22-2 rout of the SW Stars in the title game.

The tournament result was much like Pfeiffer’s season. The Michigan team played in four tournaments  before winning the last one at Shelbyville, Indiana (SPA) in August before heading to Dalton.

“We started out the year in June playing in the Buckeye Classic in Akron,” Gebben said. “That was a great tournament to get us started because they had eight 75-year old teams there. We finished third behind ProHealth Care (Wisconson) and Nami Construction (NJ) with a 5-and-2 mark, so we had a good idea of how we would do this year and what we needed to do to improve.”

Surprisingly the key to Pfeiffer’s improvement wasn’t hitting and fielding as much as the little things.

“We grew as a team as the season progressed,” Gebben said. “Everybody encouraged each other and we never got depressed. We had great team spirit. We became like a big family and the wives were part of it, they came to all our tournaments and were the best cheering section of any team in any tournament.”

The Gray Sox aren’t one year wonders since the Grand Rapid boys have gradually moved up the age bracket ladders starting with the 60 Division and will soon be making the big move to the 80’s.

Gebben had nothing but high praise for the Dalton tournament.

“SPA didn’t just make sure the playing part of the tournament was top notch, they made certain every aspect of our visit was a great experience,” Gebben said. “The hotel accommodations were outstanding and they even had a trolley bus that would stop at the hotel and pick us up in the evening and take our entire group (wives and players)  to where we wanted to go to eat. We just had a great time.”

“Another thing I want to mention is the high standards of the total SPA organization,” Gebben added. “There are a lot of other organizations and tournaments we could go to but Ridge (Hooks) emphasizes that ‘God Be the Glory’.  Keeping God in our life is important to all of us and we have a team prayer prior to and after the games. With HIM in your heart everything  is possible in life and that is why we appreciate SPA’s outlook that “senior softball is more than just a game.”

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by Ho Hoffman 30. September 2010 22:48

DALTON, GEORGIA – According to SPA 70 AAA National Champion Ga Classics manager Harry Harrison the secret to having a great team is not using a scorebook.

“I don’t use a scorebook,”Harrison said. “Players shouldn’t worry if they were given a hit or RBI, all they should care about is the number on the scoreboard as in how many runs did we score.”

The strategy worked well  in Dalton as the Classics bested six other hopefuls by beating  Glen Groebli’s Chicago Geezers 19-17 in the “if” game to win the SPA 70 AAA title.

“That Chicago team is really a good team,” Harrison said. “We played them four times, Once in pool and three times in the double elimination bracket and split with them. Fortunately we won the one which counted.”

The “if” game went down to the end with the Geezers scoring two in the sixth for a 17-17 tie. The Classics answered with two of their own to go on top 19-17 and then put Chicago down 1-2-3 in the seventh.

It was poetic justice for the Classics since they had finished second in five tournaments already this year.

Harrison also calls the Classics a home grown team but was getting tired of waiting for them to catch up with him age wise.

“We’ve been playing together for so long, I can’t remember the years,” Harrison said. “They all finally caught up with me this year and we were able to move up from the 65’s to the 70’s together. It was about time, I had waited four years for the rest of them”

The Classics also add another dimension to senior softball making the experience a family event.

“We all play for fun and make the tournaments a mini-vacation,” the manager said. “The wives all come and sit in the stands and cheer us on, which is really special. Then we all go out to eat together after the game. There has to be more to softball tournaments then just playing the game, you have to make the experience enjoyable both on and off the field.”

Harrison’s wife Naomi has been attending the tournaments for 25 years with him and he says playing tournament ball wouldn’t be the same without her being with him. Their next softball trip together will be to the Myrtle Beach SPA tournament.

Speaking of SPA tournaments, he had this to say.

“I just like the way SPA tournaments are conducted from the fields to the hotels and the from organizers to the umpires, ” Harrison said. “People make tournaments and SPA has the nicest people you can find at their tournaments. They all make you feel welcome.”

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About the Editor

Ho Hoffman of Wadsworth,Ohio is a sports writer for the Medina (Ohio) Gazette daily newspaper. Hoffman also has been playing competitive softball for nearly sixty years and 3,000 games starting in the adult fast pitch leagues as a teenager and continuing through into today's 70's senior division.  

Hoffman for the past twenty years has also been playing on senior softball travel teams. In addition, he along with Red Bole are the tournament directors of the highly successful SPA Ohio Buckeye Classic June senior softball tournament which last year drew 77 teams, in the 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 AA and AAA only divisions. 

He is also married. He and his wife Sue have three sons who are also active in softball and baseball. The youngest Matt plays adult slo-pitch softball, Mike plays Roy Hobbs 40-and over baseball and Marc is the founder, owner and president of U.S. Baseball Academy, the nation's largest baseball training program.


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