Organization, experience vital to put on a successful youth tournament

Crowded parking lots at area motels are one indication that hosting state youth baseball and softball tournaments, in addition to providing entertainment for fans, are beneficial to the Grays Harbor economy.

The Harbor received such a boost — modest as it might be — last week when the state Babe Ruth Softball and the Southern Washington State Senior Babe Ruth tournaments were staged concurrently at different sites in Hoquiam.

Hoquiam has been the site for several recent state and regional softball tournaments. This was the second consecutive year the Senior Babe Ruth tourney has been played on Grays Harbor (it was in Aberdeen last year) and this year’s event went well enough that tournament director Chris Godfrey said the Harbor may be in line to host regionals in 2015.

These tournaments, however, don’t magically materialize. To ensure success and repeat bookings, strong organizational skills are required.

The Hoquiam Girls Fastpitch Association represents the gold standard in this area.

With competition in four age groups being crammed into a four-day tourney on two Gable Park fields (two of the age groups, however, didn’t begin play until the final day of the event), last week’s state Babe Ruth softball tourney could have been a train wreck. The tournament organizers, however, made it look easy.

Advance planning was the key, according to tournament director Mike Cummings.

The tournament committee began organizational meetings about two months ago and scheduled several follow-up sessions to confirm volunteer participation. Even that was cutting it close by association standards, Cummings said.

“In the past, we started meeting (the previous) October,” he noted. “But we’ve done so many that we didn’t need to meet that often.”

Securing an adequate volunteer staff is also essential. Cummings estimated that last week’s tourney work force — counting ticket-takers, scorekeepers, scoreboard operators and concession stand personnel — numbered about 15. Not all of them were on hand for every game, but they were efficiently organized. Scorekeeping assignments for each game, for example, were posted in the score booth tower.

The district Little League Major League Tournament at Montesano that concluded earlier this month was another example of an event in which the continuity of volunteer personnel helped enormously.

Occasionally, a tourney can make do with a small staff, but only if some of the personnel are willing to multi-task.

Hoquiam’s Perry Crowell IV (better known as an All-American bowler) not only served as the director of last year’s state 14-year-old Babe Ruth baseball tournament at Olympic Stadium but doubled (and sometimes tripled) as his own scorekeeper and public address announcer.

Too often, however, youth baseball tournament officials are recruiting scorekeepers and scoreboard operators out of the stands less than 15 minutes prior to the first pitch — a practice that reflects poorly on the event’s organization.

The Hoquiam Fastpitch people also put out a first-rate program for last week’s state tournament. The 52-page publication included brackets, rosters (with uniform numbers) and photos for all participating teams.

If that information is not readily available, it’s OK to not offer a program. But if you’re going to charge for one, rosters should be included.

Last week’s softball tournament did contain at least one glitch. The blame, however, belonged to Babe Ruth rulesmakers rather than tourney officials.

Friday’s six-game pool-play schedule in the 10-U age group was delayed significantly by West End’s 33-23 victory over North Olympic midway through the program (the score was 26-20 in the second inning). The day’s final game, between Hoquiam and Othello, thus started more than two hours late — after the players barbecue that was intended to cap the day’s activities had actually begun.

That would have been avoidable had a time limit been imposed on the West End-North Olympic game.

While not feasible for contests in the double-elimination bracket, 2-hour time limits should be a staple of pool play (or round-robin) games in which the only purpose is to determine seeding for bracket competition. Babe Ruth officials, however, have yet to implement such a standard.

“I sure would like to see a change,” Cummings said. “I think it’s a nightmare during pool play.”

Fortunately for the Hoquiam and Othello players, the grill was kept open until after their game was completed. The players must have been hungry. It was nearly 9 p.m. when the final out was recorded.

Rick Anderson: (360) 537-3924;


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