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Minnesota SSWC qualifier battles weather in Walker


By Steve Simmons


(Steve Simmons is the SSUSA Clubs & Leagues national director and also serves as a traveling tournament director for both SSUSA recreational events and SSWC qualifiers.)


WALKER, MN – A Steve Simmons-run tournament is developing a reputation as a “Mother Nature” challenged event. Simmons’ latest adventure included rain, wind and unseasonably cool temperatures at the Minnesota SSWC qualifier which was played on June 28-29 at the Moondance Softball Complex in Walker, Minn. Eventually all games were played but not before the final round of games scheduled for Saturday were shifted to Sunday due to a steady rain, chilling 20-30 mph winds and an afternoon temperature that dropped some 30 degrees below the 80-degree seasonal average.

“Let it be known that Sunday turned out to be a ‘drop dead gorgeous’ day, a wonderful day to play ball,” said Simmons. “I think this proves I’m not totally jinxed but I am available to schedule a tournament in your neighborhood if your area happens to be drought stricken.”

Simmons’ track record this spring started with basically a two-day wash-out in West Des Moines, Iowa in mid-April, after just one round of games were played in a SSUSA recreational tournament. He next journeyed to York, Pa., in late April to help with the Pennsylvania SSWC qualifier’s weekend games. Prior to the weekend, the tournament which had started Tuesday had been played in near perfect weather. The weather gods must have known Simmons had arrived because torrential rains fell Saturday night, leaving fields unplayable on Sunday.

Finally, Simmons directed the Connecticut SSWC qualifier in mid-May in North Branford, Ct., and managed to get almost all games played despite more precipitation. Rain on Friday did eliminate a pair of games and caused Saturday’s play to start later in the day. Just as the tournament concluded on Sunday the heavens opened up once more, christening the tournament champions.

The other challenge facing Simmons in Walker, Minn., besides the weather, was how to shape nine diverse teams, of varying ages and skill levels into competitive divisions. This was accomplished by matching the teams as close as possible, with regard to relative capabilities, into three competitive divisions and then scheduling some cross-divisional play to offer teams a variety of opponents.

The Minnesota Masters 55’s, a 55 Major Plus team, won the 40+ division which also included Foltz Buildings (MN), a 40 AAA team, and Jimmy’s (MN), a 50 Major team. MN Masters beat Jimmy’s twice by scores of 19-15 and 16-13 and split with Foltz, winning 26-23 before losing 13-12 to establish the best record in the division.

Korba Insurance (MN), a 60 Major Plus team, captured the 60 Major crown beating the Minnesota Masters 60’s, a 60 Major team, twice by scores of 17-16 and 24-9. Both these teams also played the 40+ division teams to fill out their schedules.

The third division was the 60 AA division, a stand-alone division. One of the co-host teams, Bobby & Steve’s 60+ Lumberjacks (MN – 60 AA), won that division and the other co-host team, Bobby & Steve’s 65+ Lumberjacks (MN – 65  AA), were the runners-up. Finishing third was Winnipeg South, another 60 AA team who hails from Manitoba, Canada. They were the only non-Minnesota teams in the tournament. A fourth team, Russell’s Bats (MN – 60 AAA), played in this division as an exhibition team. The 60+ Lumberjacks title-winning scores included two wins against Winnipeg South, 25-13 and 13-12, and a split decision with the 65+ Lumberjacks, winning 24-21 and losing 22-18.

This tournament, had it been filmed, could have served as a training video, endorsing the wearing of softball protective gear. Rich Majcin, who is the groundskeeper for the beautiful Moondance Softball Complex, also is one of the pitchers for the 60+ Lumberjacks team. He purchased a lightweight face mask, made specifically for softball players, which he wears when pitching.

In one of the 60+ Lumberjacks games Majcin ended up playing first base and, fortunately for him, continued to wear the mask. A hard hit line drive, drilled right at him, “knuckled” in flight and deflected off his glove and smacked him right between the eyes. The ball caromed off his forehead, flying high in a parabolic arc before settling in right field. Aside from being a bit stunned, Majcin emerged uninjured from that beaning. His softball career could have ended right there save for that piece of reinforced plastic protecting his face. SCORE ONE FOR THE FACE MASK!!!