Midwest SPA Tournament Circuit

by Ho Hoffman 28. March 2011 18:49

AKRON – Senior softball tournament trips should be more than just playing the game and this year the Midwest SPA tournament circuit offers that additional enjoyment to make it a memorable experience.

The circuit starts in Dayton, Ohio with the Buckeye First Flight Classic May 19-May 22 and concludes in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania with the Senior Softball of Central Pennsylvania August 25-August 28 event.

In between you have THEE Buckeye Classic Qualifier in Akron/Barberton June11-12 and June 14-18; the grand daddy of the Midwest tournaments Duane Laird’s Hoosier Classic in Shelbyville, Indiana June 29-July 3 and then the Heart of Ohio Columbus, Ohio tournament at their 32-field complex from July 15- July 22.

The newest tournament in the Midwest belongs to Sylvania’s outstanding Pacesetter Park complex’s Ring Tournament August 5 through August 7. That is SIX tournaments within a one tank trip from Pennsylvania to Indiana and with gas prices continuing to rise each day, it is an economical summer tournament schedule.

And ladies, SPA hasn’t forgotten you. The two big ring tournaments in Columbus, Ohio and Sylvania, Ohio both have a women’s tournament. For you girls who want to fly in from the west coast or southeast and south coast, there is the Port Columbus International airport and both the Toledo Express Airport (10 miles from Sylvania) and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airport (45 miles from Sylvania) available for your flight plans.

But as I said earlier this “softball tour” is about more than softball.

How about a ‘Ghost Walk” through a Civil War battlefield, a tour of the Hershey chocolate factory, a 5,000 plus all-Corvette Car Show and for the women, outlet malls with over 1,000 stores. All these are available at the Mechanicsburg tournament.

Visit the Gettysburg battlefield for a taste of history and some spooky encounters because ghosts and spirits ARE COMMONPLACE.  Car enthusiasts will enjoy the car show at Carlisle. You’re right, that is the school Jim Thorpe attended.

The Akron area offers The Pro Football Hall of Fame, Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and Ohio Amish country food and shopping; all within thirty miles of the hotels and ball fields.

Dayton, the home of the Wright brothers, offers the National Air Force Museum a definite must-see while Sylvania is only one hour away from the famous Cedar point Amusement Park, the nation’s top roller coaster rides experience. You have probably seen the Park numerous times on the Travel channel.

Columbus, in addition to the Horseshoe (home of THEE Ohio State Buckeyes) has the Center of Science and Industry Museum. Don’t laugh, it is a hands-on experience and a great place to visit (similar to the Smithsonian). There is also German Village and for soccer fans, the home of the Columbus Crew pro soccer team.

AND!!! The 2010 AAA champions the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland farm team) are home for a three game series with Indianapolis (the Pirates farm team) during the Heart of Ohio softball tournament.

Saved the best for last…SHELBYVILLE. Located minutes from a race track and casino with slots, Texas hold-em, Black Jack, dining, buffets, entertainment and horse racing. Also located close by is Little Nashville, just a great little town to walk through with wineries, restaurants, antique and specialty shops, music theatres. Just great place to relax with great food and lots of ice cream.

So this year when you are thinking softball tournaments, think about the whole package and make it an enjoyable experience instead of just the games. Consider the Midwest SPA Tournament schedule. There is something for everyone.

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Tournaments

Improve Hitting Precision

by Bobby Graham 16. March 2011 13:44

This is an excerpt from Complete Guide to Slowpitch Softball by Rainer and Julie Martens.

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Place hitting is more about accuracy than power. As you develop your hitting skills, you’ll want to decide whether you want to be a power hitter, a place hitter, or both. In doing so you should know about Fitt’s law. This well-established scientific principle of motor behavior is about the speed–accuracy tradeoff. In hitting terms, it means that the faster you swing the bat, the less accurate you’ll be. Thus you need to decide whether you want to swing the bat with greater speed or give up some of that speed so that you can hit the ball more accurately. It may be a decision to hit .500 with occasional home runs or hit singles three out of four times to hit .750.

Here are the key things that place hitters do differently compared with power hitters.

  • They more often use a conventional grip to maximize bat control.
  • They tend to use a more open stance or ready position.
  • They are modestly nomadic, making minor location adjustments with their feet in the batter’s box as the pitch approaches to position themselves to hit to the location they have targeted.
  • The load phase involves less movement. The hands may reach back only a short distance before starting forward in the swing phase.
  • The stride is shorter; it’s a smooth, soft step that adjusts the position of the batter to the location of the ball to hit it in the direction desired.
  • The swing is less powerful (slower speed), and the emphasis is on timing the swing to hit the ball to the desired location.

A less powerful swing doesn’t mean a weak swing. Place hitters want to hit the ball sharply too so that fielders have less time to catch the ball. As Fitt’s law states, they trade off some speed in the swing to swing more accurately.

Hitting to the Near Field

If you’re batting right-handed, the near field is the left side of the field, and if you’re batting left-handed, the near field is the right side of the field. Most players learn to hit to the near field when they first learn the game; that is, they learn to pull the ball toward third base if hitting right-handed and toward first base if hitting left-handed. This swing seems to come more naturally, with greater accuracy and more power.

Right-handed batters like to hit the 5-6 hole between the third baseperson and shortstop; left-handed batters may try the 3-4 hole between the first and second basepersons (see figure 2 on page 8 for a review of the holes). If the third baseperson moves away from the foul line into the 5-6 hole, right-handed hitters may choose to hit the ball down the third-base line. Likewise, left-handed hitters may try to hit the ball down the first-base line if the first baseperson moves into the 3-4 hole.

To hit the ball to the near side, you want a pitch on the inside half of the strike zone that is waist to shoulder high at the point of contact. Hitting an outside pitch with accuracy to the near side is difficult, especially if you’re trying to hit just inside the foul line. Another pitch to avoid is the low, inside pitch, which if hit will likely go foul or to the third baseperson if you’re a right-handed batter and to the first baseperson if you are a left-handed batter. Also avoid deep, inside pitches. Those you’ll likely pop up or foul, and they are definitely difficult to hit to a desired location. See Offense→Advanced Hitting→Near- and Opposite-Field Hitting on the DVD to master these skills.

Hitting to the Opposite Field

Hitting to the opposite field (right-handed hitters to right field and left-handed hitters to left field) is a valuable skill not only for place hitters but for power hitters as well. If your opponents discover that you can hit only to the near side, they may shift more fielders to that side of the field. When you hit at least occasionally to the opposite field, defenses must play you straight away.

The key difference between hitting to the near-side field and the opposite field is that in the second case you let the ball come farther into the strike zone when hitting it (see figure 2.4a-b). Therefore, to hit the ball between your shoulder and waist, you’ll want to stand forward in the batter’s box. If you stand back in the box, the ball will more likely be low in the strike zone and more difficult to control.

 

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The best pitch to hit to the opposite field is one on the outside half of the strike zone at shoulder to waist height. One common mistake when hitting to the opposite field is trying to hit pitches that are too far outside, resulting in your reaching too much and losing bat control (see figure 2.5a). Reaching could also cause you to step on the plate or strike mat as you’re swinging, which is an automatic out. Another common mistake is dipping the back shoulder when positioning yourself to hit (see figure 2.5b). Although you want to rotate inwardly to align your body to hit toward the opposite field, keep the shoulders level. A third common mistake made when hitting to the opposite field (although it can occur when hitting to any field) is pushing the bat in that direction rather than swinging the bat. Pushing the bat refers to batters pushing the bat forward with the back arm (top hand on the bat) rather than pulling forcefully with the front arm (bottom hand on the bat) to get good velocity on the bat head. Consequently, the bat head is farther back when contacting the ball, resulting in little momentum being imparted to the ball. In hitting to the opposite field, you want to maintain good swing mechanics. The adjustments are positioning the body to swing comfortably to the opposite field and delaying the swing slightly. Watch Offense→Advanced Hitting→Near- and Opposite-Field Hitting on the DVD to see these incorrect swings.

Some skilled place hitters are squatters, making only a slight adjustment in the forward stride by stepping in the direction that they intend to hit the ball. They commonly take a position in the batter’s box farther away from the plate and then stride toward the opposite field. Most of their adjustment comes in the timing of their swing. They wait longer to make contact, hitting the ball not in front of the body as when they pull the ball, but even with the body. Thus, the defense has more difficulty determining where a squatter will hit the ball.

Other place hitters are nomads. They’ll take almost any position in the batter’s box, but when the pitch is coming they adjust their position to align themselves to hit to the opposite field. A common approach for nomad place hitters is to take a comfortable stance for hitting to the near-side field but, as the ball is pitched, to step away from the plate with the back foot and to step slightly toward the opposite field with the front foot.

Hitting up the Middle

After the ball is past the pitcher, the holes on either side of the pitcher (the 1-4 and 1-6 holes) are often wide open. And line drives over the pitcher will find the grass between the left-center and right-center fielders. But this kind of hitting calls for precision. If the ball is hit to the pitcher, it’s an easy out, and if a runner is on first, it’s an easy double play. If the shortstop or second baseperson is playing closer to second base, especially if the fielder knows that you like to hit up the middle, then you should look to hit the 3-4 or 5-6 hole. The best pitches for squatters to hit up the middle are those in the middle of the strike zone from waist to shoulder height. Nomads, on the other hand, will adjust their position in the batter’s box to align themselves to hit the pitch wherever it’s located, except that they will avoid reaching for outside pitches.

  

Read more about Complete Guide to Slowpitch Softball.

 

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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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