NEW CHAMPS OUTDUEL FIVE OTHERS IN SILVER BRACKET
COLUMBUS, OHIO – The MICHIGAN LAKERS captured the 2013 SPA 75 WORLDS SILVER DIVISION title AUGUST 12-15 at COLUMBUS, OHIO'S BERLINER PARK going undefeated in the six-team bracket play.
“When I saw we were put in the SILVER DIVISION, I knew we had a good chance of winning the championship,” 2013 SPA 75 SILVER DIVISION MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR NORM NELSON said, “We figured the LOUISVILLE THUNDER, who we played in SHELBYVILLE, would be the team we would have to beat to win it,”
NELSON is not only an award winning manager, but also a pretty good prophet. The LAKERS had to beat the THUNDER not once but twice TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
The LAKERS sent the THUNDER to the loser's bracket early in the tournament with a 30-14 thrashing and then beat them again in the title game, but this time by only a 10-8 score.
“That first win over the THUNDER was the best we have played in any game all year,” NELSON said, “The second game was a true indication of how close us and the THUNDER are to each other.”
“I would imagine if we played them ten times, we each would win five games,”he added.
It was the third tournament the teams had been in together but only the first time they played each other in a finals.
“We both were in different brackets at SHELBYVILLE and THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC but we had both seen each other play,” NELSON said.
The other team the LAKERS beat on the way to the title were MICHIGAN MILLERS 23-8.
“It was a great tournament,” NELSON said, “We got to play different teams in pool play and then two others in bracket play. SPA has really done a great job having tournaments where a lot of 75's attend. There were FIFTEEN teams here, EIGHT in SHELBYVILLE and SEVENTEEN at THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC.”
Although the team has been playing together for over twenty years, this was the first SPA National or WORLDS title they have ever won.
“We won in HUNTSMAN in 2003 as a 65-year old team and also a couple tournaments that were not SSUSA, ISSA or SPA,” Nelson said, “This is the first really big one we won.”
They almost didn't even make it to this one.
“We played as a 70's team last year and really took our lumps and weren't sure if we stay at 70 or move up to 75 this year,” NELSON explained, “We almost waited to long to get into THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC and when we finished second in their SILVER DIVISION, we knew we could compete at this level and started making plans to go to other SPA tournaments and the SPA WORLDS.”
According to NELSON, the key to winning the WORLD TITLE was their hitting,
“We use an on-base-percentage figure instead of pure batting average and our OBP was .615,” NELSON said, “We had one player at .800, another at .700, five at .600, four at .500 and two at .400. When you have that many players at .600 or better, you know your hitters have had a good tournament.”
BARRY GRIFFIN had the hottest bat for the LAKERS with a .818 OBP (18 for 22) including four inside-the-park home runs. In addition GRIFFIN, the team's short stop, sparkled on the field. His efforts easily earned him the TOURNAMENT MVP AWARD.
The LAKERS also had their share of ALL AMERICANS. Making the squad were DAVE HUNT (OF,.642), J.C. SCHNEIDER (1B, .636), GARY BELLEVILLE (MF, .580), NELSON (INF,.708) and DONNIE IVENS (OF, .454).
“IVENS was special for us,” NELSON explained, “DON'S wife had gone into the hospital and it looked like he would not be able to attend the tournament which meant we only would have had 12 players, not enough for a four-day tournament.”
“DON'S wife told him to go to the tournament and she would be OK,”NELSON added, “Without DON we would not have been able to attend, that is why he was voted as ALL AMERICAN for the sacrifice he made to attend.”.
Other members of the LAKERS are: ERWIN CHEYNE, DON GARRATT, CHARLES LANE, STU LAPHAM,JOE REYNOLDS, LARRY SEVITTS, RON SHOEMAKER, FRED DAVIS, MELVIN VANDENHEUVEL, JAN VOSBURG and PAUL HARRINGTON.
“Could you also mention CAROL NELSON, who is like our traveling secretary lining up the motels and finding restaurants for us?,” NELSON asked,
Sorry, can't do it. Just kidding.
The wives apparently are a huge part of the LAKERS' team. At COLUMBUS they had a fan base of NINE WIVES and THREE other fan club members.
“That is what makes playing senior softball so enjoyable,” NELSON said, “When you have the wives and others attend to cheer you on and then get together after the game for group dinners and such.”
The LAKERS are now done with softball for 2013 but are looking forward to 2014.
“We started off with seventeen -or-so players and right now we probably have less than a dozen healthy bodies,” NELSON said, “It is time for us to take time to heal and get ready for 2014.”
“This was a great year for us being able to play four tournaments and finish it off with a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP,” NELSON added, “We also want to thank SPA for putting together so many great tournaments that 75-year guys can play in. It helped makes this a great and enjoyable year for the LAKERS.”