ASA Smoky Mountain Classic

Resmondo/Hague/Taylor Bros/Sunbelt/Miken pretty much rolled through this great tournament as they went 6-0 on route to the championship. They were on their way to run ruling every team, but stalled in their game against Alesium. The Resmondo boys had a chance to put them away in the 4th, 5th & 6th innings, but could not get it done. Alesium took advantage of it and clawed their way back into it and the game was tied at 39-39 going to the bottom of the 7th and Hague scored to win the game. It was not as close as it looked. Todd Martin, who has been struggling a little this year especially in the power numbers because of a bad back, finally got it going. Todd was 30-33 with 19 homeruns to almost double his homeruns for the season. Todd had 21 going into the tournament and came out with 40, and was chosen the tournament’s MVP. Howie Krause who also had a great tournament, was chasing Todd for MVP honors as he went 26-30 with 17 homeruns. I can tell you it was a total team effort in this win. The Resmondo team this past two weekends have really put it all together and have made it two wins in a row in ASA Supers. Some people want to say it’s just the bats, but I know one thing for sure that the other plastic bat being used in the game by some very good softball teams are not lacking anything. The facts are that some of the players are just not getting it done, and I think maybe that they ought to think more about their game than about what their opponents are swinging. I also know that the great hitters in the game like Jeff Hall and Brett Helmer’s numbers are as good as they always have been, not true about some of the other players who just aren’t hitting it. John McCraw has been using the other bat and has been killing it all season long, and he’s up among the leaders. I over heard some players this weekend making statements saying “how the hell is US Vinyl beating some of us top teams”. I’m going to tell you why and this is my own opinion, “the US Vinyl team has some of the best talent in the game right now, and I don’t care what bat they swing, this team has gotten better and better each week they play. When this club picked up shortstop Dennis Shrum it’s made this team a contender to win against the two elite teams anytime they play. This young man has played seven years of minor league baseball, and as high as AAA. I’m here to tell you he wouldn’t of played at that level if he couldn’t play the game, believe me. This young man is as good as it gets on the defensive side of the game in softball today and he is learning to hit it fast, and is definitely an impact player in softball today. This team also has more ex-minor league baseball players who know how to play. RJ Howerton is the “Real Deal” believe me. It doesn’t make any difference what this young man swings. Like it or not this kid has all the tools. Ronnie James has proven through the years he can hit the ball, “Big Jeff Ott” has also. Twinkie Jones has been a great hitter with some very good softball teams over the years, Brandon Murray is one of the best young pitchers in the game and can flat out hit it, young JD Genter is a very good player and is fast becoming a very good hitter, Bob Waldyke has been one of the game’s superior players and been playing longer than 99% of the players on the two big teams. Bob could play very well back in the 80’s and can flat-out still play well into his 40’s. Jamal Herrin is playing his first year at big time softball and is learning his game, just like other players this young have experienced over the years. He will be a good one. Kelly Hartman is also learning and can hit it as far as anybody who plays the game today. Veteran Ray Coward is the leader of this very good softball team along with Gregg Schulte who helped make this bunch a winner. John McCraw who was released from Resmondo a week ago, has brought just what it will take for this team to win a World, and I’m here to tell you that both Resmondo and Smith better be on their game or they could get beat, and believe me this is a very good softball team not just because of the bat they swing, but because they do have a lot of talent. I will end this part of the report with this, the Resmondo team has some of the best players whoever played at this level and also have some other talented players, and believe me they don’t have to use the plastic bats to win. They are swinging the bat that their sponsor gave them Miken when the association they play in allows it to be used. It’s no different than last year. These teams swing what the associations allow them to play with. Last year the #1 team in the country came out with their new plastic bat and won one World championship early and everybody started crying, that bat’s illegal, get it out! You know what? That team won one World Championship using that bat. I don’t believe it was the bat that didn’t allow them to win any more World’s, it was simply the players did not hit and get the job done period. I sat and watched this tournament all weekend long. I saw the two so-called hot bats being used, and I can tell you that balls were being hit equally as far off of both bats. I will also tell you the leading homerun hitter in this tournament was using the Synergy. All I’ve got to say is that they can cry and whine about the bats, but as long as the associations allow these bats to be played with, stop whining and play the game! I said in the start of the season, that it would be very difficult for some of the teams to compete against these bats, and that has been proven. If these teams are going to cry and whine, then the only solution I can see to the problem is that everybody swing the same bat and see what happens, that’s all I have to say about the bats”.

Now, one more issue before getting back to the tournament, and that is hitting the middle. I’ve been playing softball and watching this game since 1963, a lot more than the average person including the players. I have never seen any stop signs through the middle of the diamond put up. “Big Time” softball like it or not, is a professional game. Big money is spent at all levels. The players are very, very competitive and are paid by the sponsors to win. Remember there is no return on the sponsor’s money spent, only prestige to win. These sponsors ask the players to do their job, just like the man who goes to work 9-5 in the office, he must produce or he’s out of a job. If anybody thinks that these players would purposely try to hurt another player, or a sponsor would put a bounty on an opposing player, hasn’t got a clue of what’s going on in the game of softball. I have watched all season long on my board people bashing players who hit up the middle. I am sick and tired of hearing it and reading it, therefore beginning next week I will allow no bashing of any player on this board about anything to harm the integrity of the game of softball. or the player. I’m going to write about a player who played this game at the highest level there was, and I want to say he was one of the great hitters the game has ever known, God rest his soul. Dirk Androff could hit it as far as anybody whoever played and could handle the bat as well as anyone too. I’m here to tell you that Dirk hit many a pitcher up the middle in his day, not only with the bases loaded or nobody on, and they were all unlimited homerun tournaments, and there are a lot of pitchers who will attest to what I’m saying who wore the labels of Dudley, Steele’s, Star, Worth or any other .50 core ball that bashed upon their bodies. Just ask Ricky Huggins, Greg Canaday, Doug Byrnes, Butch Ovens and Stump Stanley. They will tell you how those .50 cores rocketed off their bodies. They have been bashing Jeff Wallace and Todd Martin, two of the nicest guys in the game of softball, and I guarantee you that this statement will come from their peers they play with and against. When you see Jeff, ask him about his first experience in big time softball with Steele’s when a .50 core rocketed off the bat of Dirk Androff and left the Dudley label on his chest for two weeks. I’ll end this part of the report by saying, yes it is dangerous and the equipment is very good, but the game has not changed from 1963-2003, the middle is open, it’s part of the game and it will always be part of the game. The competitive players who get paid to play this game will do what it takes to win, and I’ll guarantee you there not out to intentionally hurt anybody, Get A Clue!! The game hasn’t changed, just the players and the equipment have gotten better. The associations instituted the homerun rules thinking that this was the answer to making the game more competitive. What has happened is the homerun rule has increased hitting the middle on the 300′ fields is exactly a no brainier. The associations need to sit down and talk to the players, whom are the ones who know what the game is all about, not some director or head of an association who couldn’t play a lick and doesn’t have a clue what it’s all about at the professional level of this game, yet they’re the ones making the decisions on how this game should be played. The facts are let the people who know and play the game have a say on how it’s played, that’s another no brainier. Let the people who are making decisions now go out and pitch to the best players in the world and I guarantee you they won’t be making decisions anymore, let’s get back to the tournament.

Second place went to US Vinyl/ Miken who have been playing very well the last couple of weekends finishing second in Arkansas and now finishing second in the Smoky’s. Third place went to Dan Smith/Backman/Menosse/Easton who just haven’t played well the last few weeks. Talking to some of the players and sponsors they told me they are just not hitting the ball right now and hopefully they will get it going before the World’s start. I have seen the same thing happen to this team a couple of years ago when another plastic bat came out and the players were thinking more about their opponent’s bat than their own game. They better focus on their own game and not worry about what the other teams are swinging and start playing their game. They are a lot better than they have been playing the last couple of weekends and it doesn’t matter what bat they swing, and they do have a very, very good one. I over heard one of their guys say, “They didn’t beat us, the bat did.” I don’t think so, I think their bat beat them when the boys didn’t hit it like they are capable of. Everybody knows you’ve got to hit when it counts and stop making excuses like “the bat beat us”. Last week they scored 5 runs and 13 runs you can’t win with that. This week they lost one game by one run. I think it’s all about hitting and catching the ball and if you can’t get that done you don’t deserve to win. It’s only my opinion, but I believe the Dan Smith team is a lot better than what they have showed the last few weeks and I believe they need to stop crying about their opponents bat and play their game, and I think they will find themselves back in the race. Fourth place, went to Alesium/Chase Reece/Shade Restaraunt/Easton who played extremely well this weekend as usual and showed the character of what kind of team they are when they could have got run ruled in three different innings in the game against Resmondo and just came up short by a run. Remember the Alesium boys swing that other plastic bat and they’re sure doing a very good job with it. Once again, this is the number one tourney in the USA simply because of the very talented teams who participate in this great event. This tournament is better than the Worlds because of the competition involved. If this tournament was played on bigger fields I am not sure who might have won. Speaking of talented teams I will go on record saying that I missed the boat on a couple of teams that showed me they have some very good players and can play with any of the A teams in the country and compete against the big boys. These teams are Sports Den and McNair Sports. These two belong in the Top 15 and will be. I apologize to both of them for not doing my job knowing how good they were. My mistake boys. There also were some other good softball teams who played great this weekend and upset some teams. I will once again say what a terrific job Joe Huff and his Maryville Parks and Rec. Dept. along with his staff of the Smoky did running this tremendous event. Joe runs a first class tournament along with his fine assistant Chris, and I can tell you talking with sponsors, players, coaches and fans that all of the teams agree that this is the best tournament in the world and they prove that by coming back year after year. Talk about coming back, Joe has told me that there will be a Smoky tournament in 2004 no matter what happens. I personally hope that the people from the ASA for which Joe has been a part of for 24 years will stay with Joe in the Smoky Mountain Classic in 2004. I believe this is a historic tournament along with four others Little Rock, College Station, Sanford and the Twitty, which the major teams should support and I believe the ASA can keep the Super Division and their World Tournament in 2004 with the help of Joe Huff, Clint Albright, Tom Farnsworth, Greg Hutchinson and Dave LaMarbre could make this happen. This great tournament is the oldest association going in softball, and I would also give my time to work with these people to keep this best event in Big Time Softball an on-going yearly event.