by Ho Hoffman 27. September 2011 10:26

DALTON, GEORGIA – SPA will now have to name their “National” Championships the “International” Championships as Canada’s Windsor Chiefs 55’s became the first team outside the United States to win a SPA Nationals’ Division crown.

“This is a dream come true for me,” SPA President Ridge Hooks said, “I’ve waited a long time for SPA to have teams from Canada join our organization and compete in SPA tournaments. To have such a class Canadian team like Windsor win a National title is just very, very special.”

Canadian teams which are registered with SPA  are Brantford Nissan 55’s, 60’s,65’s and 70’s; Windsor Chief 55’s, 60’s and 65’s; Brooklin (Scardborough) 60’s; CAVCO (Windsor) Sports 60’s; Mississauga Legends 60’s and 65’s; Donneybrook (Dorchester) Legions 65’s. All are from the province of Ontario.

The Windsor Chiefs became the first Canadian team to win a National by beating Wholesale Builders 26-12 in the title game. The Builders had come out of the losers bracket to beat Windsor 21-17 and force a  “winner take all” showdown game.

“The championship game was a lot closer than the score,” Windsor Chief manager Rick Masaro said, “ It was only 2-1 after two innings but we got hot in innings three through six scoring 20 runs and holding them to 10 runs.”

It was the second time this year Windsor had beaten Wholesale Builders in a final game to win a SPA tournament, having done it earlier at THEE Buckeye Classic with a pair of 16-10 and 24-23 wins.”

The Chiefs made the most of their tournament in the States' 2011 opportunities, participating in five tournaments. In addition to winning titles at Dalton and Akron, the Chiefs won the Sylvania, Ohio and Lansing, Michigan tournament and finished second in the Columbus, Ohio event.

“This (playing SPA tournaments) has really been an enjoyable experience for us,” the SPA 55 AAA Manager of the Year said. “ In Ontario (Province) there are only five teams and we continually play those same teams every season. In the States the competition is stronger and we see so many different teams. The playing facilities were well groomed and maintained, especially in Dalton."

Masaro said the biggest difference between the Chiefs and United States teams “is our overall defense."

“The teams from the States can really hit, I imagine the bats like the Ultra helps a lot,” he explained.“In Canada we can’t use the Ultras but it didn’t take us long to start using them in the States. In Canada the teams put a lot of emphasis on defense and I think that gives us a little edge when playing American teams.”

One Chief, who really made use of the Ultra was Dalton tournament MVP Mark Tuson. The leftfielder was 24-for-30 (.800) in the 12-team tournament and also sparkled defensively for the champs.

“Mark (Tuson) had a great defensive game but so did all of our outfielders (Larrie Pukay, Rocky Barash, Gary Rowen, Dan Blaise and John “Quags” Quagliotto),’ Masaro said, “The six of them can be rotated in the four positions and we don’t lose a thing. Their combined speed and arm strength is what helps separate us from other teams.”

If Masaro had any problem with the SPA Nationals it was having the team pick five All-American tournament selections.

“How can you single out five players from an entire team like ours and say they are the best?” the manager asked. “We could have very easily put everyone’s name in a hat and pulled out five names. We play as a team and win as a team; we are not individual stars.’
However, as difficult as it was to select five players to the All-Tournament team, nobody can argue with the choices.

Players selected were Scott Seguin (1b .640), Bob Taylor (2b .560), Stuart MacPherson (dh .785), Rick Goyeau (P .777) and Larrie Pukay (lc .692). Masaro called  Goyeau “the best 55-plus pitcher in all of Canada."

Other “unofficial All-Stars” were assistant manager and third sacker Rick Chittle (.680) Gerry Thompson (who had an outstanding last day at shortstop, .571), Dwight Velichka (.650), Barash (.680), Rowen (.714), Blaise (.667) and Quagliotto (.500).

Steve "Beep Beep" Pukay, who Masaro refers to as the “road runner” was a force on the bases. Used primarily as a pinch runner, he was used at least 50 times during the pool and tournament play.  Sandy Pukay, Steve’s wife, also came in for some special thanks from the team for doing a great job serving as the scorekeeper at the Dalton tournament.
Beside the titles and awards the Chiefs received this year, Masaro had high praise for Hooks, SPA, Dalton and the host committees they encountered at the different tournaments they played this year.

“This was truly a great experience for all of us,” Masaro said. “ Ridge (Hooks) treated us like royalty and the Dalton people and SPA staff couldn’t do enough for us. The opening ceremony was spectacular. The way SPA recognized the military and paid tribute to the fallen Americans left not one dry eye in our group. We are looking forward to next year. This was a very special year for us.”

When reminded that the Chiefs will have to move up to the next level of Major division teams in 2012, Masaro wasn’t fazed.

“Isn’t that what it is all about?” he asked, “to get better, be recognized as an upper level team and continue to play great competition? We look at the move up as being recognized as a very good team. We are looking forward to the challenge.”

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by Ho Hoffman 27. September 2011 10:10

DALTON, GEORGIA – Forget the “senior moments” jokes at least in regards to Florida’s 65AAA Senior Moments team.  The 65AAA champs started in the seventh seed in the 12-team double elimination tournament in Dalton and won five straight to win the SPA National title.

After going 1-2 in pool play, Senior Moments outscored the opposition in the five bracket games 106-51 beating a very good Huffman Electric team twice, 26-16 in a second round game and 20-5 in the finale.

“Huffman Electric had the best team in the tournament, they just ran out of gas,” Senior Moment manager Shelby Simmons said, “They had already knocked us out of three previous tournaments, but at Dalton we played our best tournament and they were not at their best.”

Simmons refers to his team as “a great bunch of overachievers” in describing their accomplishments in Dalton. He also thinks a pre-tournament strategy helped his squad.

Leading up to Dalton, Senior Moments had played in nine tournaments with the best finishes a pair of thirds, a second, and a first in the Spring Nationals. 

“In past tournaments we seem to run ourselves out in pool play and are worn out when the bracket play begins,” the 65AAA SPA Manager-of-the-Year explained, “At Dalton, everyone ran for themselves in pool play, we didn’t use the regulars and reserves that usually run for everyone else. We went into the bracket play fresh and that was a big factor in our win.”

Another huge factor was Senior Moments had the bats smoking at Dalton with eight players batting over .600 and as a team they carried a .601 average.

Dale Marker was 21-of-29 (.724, 21 RBI’s) with the team’s highest average. He also had two homers , one a grand slam, which helped him earn the Tournament MVP Award.

All-Tournament selections for Senior Moments were Steve Richards (.515), Rich Lowery (.666, 15 RBI), Clyde Smith (.709, 11 RBI), Joe McWhertor (.666, 10 RBI) and Bill Nelson (.666, 10 RBI). 

Richards, in addition to his hitting, played solid defense and either on his own hits or as a pinch running was on base 34 times. Another “road runner” for Senior Moments was Simmons who ran 26 times.
The rest of the squad are Al Froehlich (.653), Rick Shotwell (.620), Jim Monaco (.620), Jim Phelan (.552), Don Sadler (.480) and Cliff Stratton.

“You can see by the balanced hitting we had a huge team effort,” Simmons said, “Guys weren’t just hitting; they were playing defense and pinch running at every opportunity. We had 13-different heroes in a variety of areas. It was just a great team effort.”

Also coming in for praise from Simmons was scorekeeper Mary Lou Nelson, who has been pushing the pencil for the team since their inception in 2006.

Senior Moments also has a 60’s team who eventually will graduate to the 65’s team.

Still on Senior Moments’ schedule for 2011 are The Villages Tournament; SPA Myrtle Beach; Fort Myers and the Senior Moments Aruba Softball Challenge (3 teams from Aruba, 1 from the Bahamas and 2 from Orlando).

“We began the year with one goal, to win a National Championship,” Simmons said, “We accomplished our goal and it was a truly a “team” effort.”

He might also have added, “It was a great Senior Moment.”


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by Ho Hoffman 23. September 2011 10:33

DALTON, GEORGIA- As far as Bill Maclin, manager of the SPA 55 AA National Champions (By) Grace Redeemed is concerned; being a National Champion is only secondary to the Tennessee team.

“We are just so thankful to the Lord for giving us the opportunity to participate in senior softball,” Maclin said, “It is by his grace that everything is possible and we owe everything to Him.”

Contrary to popular belief (by) Grace Redeemed is not a church or particular religion sponsored softball team. It is a non-denominational group of Christian Athletes, who consider themselves Witnesses for the Lord, through their actions on the field and fellowship with other players and teams before and after the games.

This is only their second year of existence as a team and last season they took third place in the SPA 55AA Division coming in behind 2010 National champ Sun City. In 2011 the roles were reversed.

(By) Grace Redeemed won one and lost two in pool play to 55 AAA teams in this year’s pool play but beat Sun City 22-13 and 21-19 to take the best two-out-of-three for the 55 AA title.

Jimmy Waller provided the big blow in the deciding game, blasting a two-run homer scoring both himself and Jim Holt in the bottom of the seventh to break the 19-19 tie and give (by) Grace Redeemed the crown.

“We added a few more quality players this year,” the SPA 55 AA manager-of-the year explained, “We also played in five other tournaments to get ready for the Nationals, so we were much better prepared.”

The team in selecting their MVP and All-American award winners decided to base the selection on the entire season’s performance instead of just the Dalton tournament.

“We believed a player’s contribution to the team over an entire year outweighed his performance in one tournament regardless of how well he played,” Maclin said,

On that basis the team’s MVP award went to pitcher-first baseman David Northcut, who had a season average of .625 and a tournament average of .571. The MVP pitcher earned the victory in the 22-13 first game win over Sun City and also aided his cause with a three-run homer.   

All-American selections were Steve Davis (lcf, .846 tournament average, .629 season); Tony Childs (rcf, .733 tourn, .610 season); Jerry Garrett (p/c .600 season); Jim Holt (3b, .643 tourn, .581 season) and Ronnie Woodall (p/c, .687 tourn, .564 season).

Woodall pitched the last three innings in the 21-19 title victory to earn the win.

The rest of the team members are: Mike Graham (dh, .714 tourn); Greg Gallagher (dh/3b, .700 tourn); Maclin (ss, .611); Waller (rf, .600), Allen Fulbright (2b, .588); Larry Garrett (dh, .571); Mike Hancock (lf, .592) and David Isabell (1b, .451).

Also contributing to the team’s success were Ivy Graham, John Phillips and Gary Mills. . Ivy, the wife of Mike Graham, was the group’s scorer throughout the season. Philips was unable to attend the Dalton tournament due to a family illness while  Mills missed the tournament due to a sore knee..

Phillips was a very instrumental part of the squad in the previous five tournaments batting .558 and along with Holt served as the team’s co-captains.

“Even though we hit well, I think our defense was very key to our success,” Maclin said, “We were very strong up the middle and especially at 2b where Allen (Fulbright) made some key defensive stops.”

“In the outfield Mike (Hancock) made a huge over the shoulder running catch in the seventh inning of the second game against Sun City to save at least three runs and Jimmy (Waller) made a shoe-string catch for another big defensive play,” Maclin added.

The team is anxiously awaiting the start of next season and hopes to add  more SPA tournaments and maybe travel to a few new places.

“The Lord has given us this great opportunity to be Witnesses to His Grace,” Maclin explained,” Next year we hope to continue to spread His Word and by His Grace Redeemed, we will do so.”

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by Ho Hoffman 23. September 2011 10:24

DALTON, GEORGIA – The biggest help for Alabama’s Southern Pride 75’s in winning the SPA National 75AAA title came from a telephone.

“A few days before the tournament, we only had nine healthy players and I didn’t know if we could field a team, “Southern Pride manager Johnny Andrews said, “Some of our other players were all over the east coast and Florida and I didn’t know if they would be able to get to Dalton in time to play, so I spent a lot of time on the phone tracking everyone down.”

After a number of hectic phone calls, Andrews was able to contact a few more of his players and get them to come to Dalton just in time for their first game.  Finally with their 14-player roster all accounted for the Southern Pride breezed through the competition winning all six games by an average score of 16-4 and had a .610 team batting average.

“The way we played at Dalton was a total surprise,” Andrews said. “I bet we hadn’t won five total games in our previous four tournaments but at Dalton we were at the top of our game.”

One of the problems that the Southern Pride faced in the other tournaments turned out to be a benefit in the Nationals.

“We could never find a tournament which had “75”’s teams and we were playing way out of our age group,” Andrews explained, “We were playing 65’s and 70’s in the other tournaments, so I think that higher level of competition got us ready to play at Dalton.”

Although the team played as a 70-year young team in 2010, they reorganized this year and added new players to participate in the “75”’s division. Built primarily for defense, it was quite an offensive show put on by the Southern Pride in Dalton.

The tournament MVP Harold Love, who will be having hip replacement surgery in the off-season, led the attack with a .846 batting average over the six games.

Selected to the All-Tournament team were third baseman Ferrell Sparks, who Andrews said, “…played like the second coming of Brooks Robinson.” Sparks hit a little better than the former Oriole Hall-of-Famer wrapping out a .700 average. Other All-Stars were Donnie Doran (2b, .692); Dan Dupree (OF, .666)’ Gene Balog (1b, .631); Bruce Rumage ( P 6-0, .636) and the glue of the defense short stop Dave Bush (.666).

The rest of the SPA National 75AAA Championship team is: Billy Weddle (of, .611); Les Browning (c, .500); Jack Barlow (of, .333); Jerry Jones (of, .571); Hank Hughes (mf, .571); Howard Gunn (of, .384) and Andrews (dh, .692).

Andrews said the secret to his team’s success is having good people and a relaxed atmosphere.

“I choose players first on their attitude and second on their ability,” he explained, “This year’s team is just like a big family with the wives also taking part with their cheering and support of their husbands by allowing them to play senior ball.”
The good news for the Southern Pride is they are the SPA 75AAA National champs for 2011, while the bad news is it may be a “one and done”.

“A lot of the guys want to drop down and play with the 70’s team and some others may play with teams closer to their Florida home,” Andrews said, “At our age you do what is best for you and if you have an opportunity to play closer to home then you should do it.”

“Right now it is really difficult to find tournaments with more than just one-or-two “75” teams,” he continued, “The only one we know of is that SPA tournament in Akron which draws around ten teams.

Guys are getting tired of going to tournaments and playing 65 and 70 year olds, so they may just play locally or with other 70’s”.

However, Andrews will still be playing in 2012 even if he has to build a new team from scratch.
“I definitely want to enter a team in both Dalton and Akron next year. It is so great at our age we are still able to play and you don’t want to take a year off because you’ll never get that year back,” the 75’s AAA SPA Manager of the Year said, “I still have my telephone and a phone book, so I’ll just start calling players earlier next year,”

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by Ho Hoffman 22. September 2011 11:32

DALTON, GEORGIA – According to INDIANA SILVER FOX manager and SPA Hall-of-Famer Dwain Laird it was his team’s turn to beat second place CFI for the 2011 SPA 75 AA National Title.

“We have been playing Ben Handa’s CFI team in the 75 finals in every tournament the two of us have played in together the past two years,” Laird said. “In 2009 CFI beat us and we beat them in 2010. This year CFI beat us at THEE Buckeye Classic for the championship and then we beat them in the Columbus, Ohio tournament. We just seem to take turns winning championships.”

National championships are not an unusual event for the SILVER FOXES who have been playing together since 1998. In 2000 they won the 65 AA (Minor) SPA Winter Nationals and duplicated that feat with wins as a 70AA team in the 2005 SPA Winter Nationals and again at the 2007 SPA Nationals.

“I usually enjoy winning the championships but this year I felt a little sad,” Laird said, “I hated beating Ben’s (Handa) team because he was just brought into the SPA Hall of Fame and it would have been such a great experience for him to top it off with a National title.”

The Foxes took this year’s title by beating CFI in the best two-out-of-three finals by 11-9 and 9-8 scores.

“We were very fortunate in the second game, “Laird said, “Ben was pitching a great game for CFI and was beating us 8-2 going into the seventh inning but we scored seven unearned runs in our last at bats to win it.”

The heroes in that seventh inning rally were Rosie Hickman with a three-run homer to tie the score at 8-8 and Don Ward’s game winning home run that sailed over the CFI leftfielder’s head.  

Hickman’s big blast also helped earn the Foxes leftfielder the MVP Award. In addition to his homer, Hickman batted .525 in the tournament and delivered a number of key two-out hits and played solid defense to help Indiana win the championship.

Selected to the All Tournament squad were Ward, who batted .714; Roger Schroder (MF, .642); Ed West (RF, .570); R.C.Brown (SS, .460) and Don Skenandore (3b,.583)

Also contributing to the title and the .483 tournament team batting average were Fred Darling (OF); Jim Hensley (OF, .636); Kyle Saunders (OF,.538); Irv Thomas (2b/c, .636); Dominick Fiorda (2b); Ross McElwain (1b, .500); Ray Heintz (winning pitcher in the championship game); Donn Voyles (P/OF) and George Lane (utility, .375).

Lane, who also is a member of the SPA Hall-of-Fame is the assistant manager of the team and according to an overly modest Laird, “George is the brains on the team, he makes all the decisions and sets the line-ups.”

The relationship between Laird and Lane is symbolic of how the entire team gets along with each other.

“Our relationship with each other, our attitude and friendship are the keys for both our longevity and success as a team,” Laird said. “We also know full well all this has only been possible because of the Lord and we start every day with a prayer to thank him for allowing us to still be able to play this game.”

As far as the 86-year young SPA 75 AA Manager of The Year is concerned, SPA is the number one senior organization in the country.

“The difference is the way players and teams are treated,” Laird said, “You can see that immediately at the Dalton National with the opening ceremonies, through the games and ending with the championship awards. Ridge (Hooks) does a great job with SPA and you can see how it is paying off with the growth this year and new and bigger qualifier tournaments. We are really proud to be representing SPA as one of their National Champions.”

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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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