ELYRIA — The future of softball is on display this weekend at West Park, where the Elyria Parks and Recreation Department is hosting the ASA 10U and 12U girls fastpitch state tournaments.
Thirty-four teams from across Ohio arrived at the West Park complex Friday morning to begin pool play. The 10 teams in the 10U division and 24 teams in 12U division will start double-elimination bracket play this morning with the championship games in each division scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
Tournament director Garry Mason said the event, which will draw more 700 players and coaches to the West Park complex is an opportunity to show off the facility and the city to visitors from across the state.
“The state tournaments are the crown jewel of the ASA program and we feel like our facility is a crown jewel,” Mason said. “We’ve put $25,000 into each field and they drain like no other fields in the county. We can play here when no one else can.”
While the sun was shining brightly on all five fields during Friday’s action, Mason remembered last year when heavy rains created a challenge when the park hosted the 16U and 18U tournaments.
“Last year we had over six inches of rain during the state tournament and we were the only ASA tournament in Ohio to finish that weekend.”
Although Elyria has previously hosted the older age groups, this is the first time the 10U and 12U have held their tournaments at West Park.
Mason estimated it takes more than 50 people ranging from grounds crews to umpires to make the event work. He said the city has also received assistance from Elyria Little League West, which helped prepare one of the fields for tournament play.
As men’s slow-pitch softball has declined in popularity, the Parks and Recreation Department has been proactive in attracting fastpitch tournaments to the 50-acre complex.
“Our Parks and Recreation director, Frank Gustoff, has been quick to adapt,” Mason said. “Girls fastpitch is growing. So we went out and bought the 200-foot portable fences to make the fields the same as the high school and college fields and we’ve reached out to area tournaments to bring some of their games here.”
Earlier this month, West Park hosted one division of the Sheer Madness tournament, a 100-plus team event put on my MC Madness. West Park is also the home of the Lorain County Community College softball team.
The well-manicured fields and portable fences made an impression on Mike Waddell, the manager of the Diamonds 01 Black team. He brought his team, which is based in Marion, back to Elyria for the state tournament after playing in Sheer Madness.
“Of course we’re here for the competition, it is the state tournament, but I’ve also been impressed with the facility,” Waddell said. “The girls really like the temporary fences. It gives them a chance to maybe see one go over the fence.”
Waddell also said he was impressed with the availability of hotels in the area.
“We’re here for the softball but sometimes what the girls really remember is the time in the swimming pool or the hot tub with their friends,” Waddell said.
Mason said he works with hotels and restaurants in the area to provide group rates and assure quality service for the visiting teams.
Softball supervisor Bruce Manning — Mason calls him his “technology guy” — is also busy this weekend bringing tournament management into the new era of smart phones and social media.
Manning learned about the new ASA tournament website from MC Madness coach Mark Skapin during the Sheer Madness tournament. Manning, who has been involved with Elyria Parks and Recreation softball since 1998, put the knowledge to use, creating the schedules and brackets online.
Once the games started, Manning and his 17-year-old son Charles, a senior at Western Reserve High School, have been updating the website and the tournament Twitter account — @ElyriaTournySB – so coaches, parents and players can track their teams in real time.
“I was talking to a coach this morning and he was able to look at his phone and see where his next game was and the scores of the teams in his pool all within 10 minutes of when his game had just ended,” Manning said. “That’s huge for the coaches and parents because that’s how people expect to receive information today.”
The finals in the 10U division are scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. and the 12U championship game will start at 5 p.m.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.