I have talked about making changes in the great game of slow pitch softball at the Major level for quite awhile. Finally I got a chance to see it become reality in my tournament this weekend. Changes is just what I did. We played on one baseball field that had dimensions of 340′ down the lines, 375′ in the power alleys and 400′ to center. The winds were blowing in off the intercostals all weekend long, which made it very difficult for homeruns. One player said to me, “on this field you’ve got to hit it about 400′ to get it out anywhere”. There were a total of 8 games played on this field for the weekend, and there were a total of 8 homeruns hit. I believe that if the wind had not been blowing, there would of been somewhere in the neighborhood of about 20 homeruns. The ball being used was a .44 core Legend with about 400 compression, which is plenty of ball for that field. There were about 10 balls hit that were right up against the fences, and one that was brought back in by a great catch. I believe that in the right conditions this field is perfect for Big Time Softball. Now let me get into the format we used for experimental ideas to see what changes might be made to help improve the game. First of all I’m going to give you my opinion and will follow up with quotes from some of the players, managers and association reps. As I stated earlier all games were played using 90′ bases, and in some of the games the base runners were allowed to leave the bag when the pitch left the pitcher’s hand. We used that in most of the games. I also put in a rule that allowed the base runners to lead off up to 10 ft. We had a line drawn at each base and used that in some of the games. We also used the 11 men on defense in some of the games. Now in my own opinion of these rules we used, here are some of my thoughts; On the 11 man defense I personally didn’t like it, because I think it took some of the offense out of the game having that extra man out there. On the base runners, I feel either one of the rules used would be effective. As for the 90′ bases, I liked using them. Some of the players obviously didn’t like the extra length to run. I can tell you that if this game does ever go to these formats it will change some of the athletes that play the game today. I believe that the outfielders will have to be very athletic and very fast to compete in playing in these conditions. The game will still have the big catchers, AH’s and first baseman’s, but I can guarantee you that playing on 90′ bases you’ll have to have infielders who have great range, strong arms and who can flat out pick it. What I seen this weekend was some great defensive plays made by infielders and outfielders, lots of double plays, and almost a triple play 5-4-3. Let’s turn to the other ball field used in this tournament. Now that field’s dimensions were 320′ down the line, 345′ to the power alleys and 375′ to center.
Now here the wind, if any was blowing out. There were 13 games played on this field. They hit 64 homeruns on this field. Obviously the conditions and the size of the field here made quite a difference. I believe this field was the perfect size field using the 90′ bases and made for better competition. I want to say this too, that two of the best A teams in the country played in this tournament, that being Aubrey’s/TPS and Florida Heat/Nave Plumbing/Joe Blacks/Worth, were both very competitive against the two stronger pick up teams consisting of many of the top players in the world. Taking nothing away from those two A teams. if they had to play the Pierce Construction/Taylor Brother’s team or the KarPhone/Sunnyvale/Easton team on the smaller field it may have been different results. I can tell you this, when they played on the other field those two A teams were competitive and could win on that field. My feelings are, now that I’ve seen these games played in these conditions, I’m more convinced that this would truly give the good AA & A teams a chance to compete and play full games in every tournament they entered, and it doesn’t mean that those AA or A are going to win Nit’s, but I can tell you that playing on these size fields, using longer bases, with the right ball will let these teams compete at the super level and make it a much more interesting game, and when the fans see this game played like this I guarantee we can bring the interest back to this great game we all love. I didn’t like the 3-1 games or the 7-4 games, but that was caused by the wind conditions, and also because a lot of the players obviously have not picked a bat up since the end of last season, which caused a lot of fly ball outs in the big parks. If this tournament had been played in mid-season it would of been unbelievable to watch.
Here are some of the quotes made by some of the players about these formats: I asked Brett Helmer what he thought about the 90′ bases, and this was his comment ” I don’t mind the extra running, but I’m sure it effects some players, but all it tells me is that we all better be in great shape or we won’t be around this game playing these conditions. I also think it sure makes for a better defensive game and for our team this weekend, we just didn’t hit well period.” Brad Stiles’s comments were ” I like this game played in these conditions, I like the 90′ bases and I believe that players like myself, being a base hitter, that this game is perfect for me, so that when I get a hit people like Garris and Wallace can hit the homerun, and that’s how this game should be, base hits and a few homeruns.” I also talked to a few of the fans that were there, and I asked them if they had ever seen Major level softball played, and here was his comment, ” Yes, I have seen it played both on softball complex’s and in stadiums, and I don’t go watch these big guys play on those small fields, it’s way too boring to stand there and watch homerun after homerun. I play senior softball and have played the game for years and I am 62 years old, and with the equipment out there today I can almost still hit it out sometimes. I really enjoyed watching these games this weekend here, especially with those long bases. It was exciting to see some great defensive plays and only a few homeruns.” I asked him if he would come back to watch this kind of ball, and he said in a heartbeat.” I was very pleased with the results of this tournament and I finally got to see the game played in the conditions that I’ve always felt that this game needs to go to. I’m sure there will be pros and cons from the players, and hopefully players, coaches, managers, sponsors and the association people that attended my tournament can and will post their comments and thoughts on my message board or e-mail me.
This tournament, bat challenge, and hitting clinic would not of been possible for me to pull off without the numerous help I received to make it so successful. I would like to thank the following people: City of Daytona Recreation Dept., Hilary for use of their fields, Mike Burton for opening his baseball teams refreshment stand for our use, Glen Walker and Spruce Creek High School for use of the other baseball field, the girls softball booster club for opening up their refreshment stands for our use. Harold Nichols from Louisville Slugger TPS, Mike Cunningham from Worth Sports, Rich Lomas from Easton Sports, Mr. Dan Smith, Mr. Jerry Bachman, Mr. Ed Menosee, Jackie Hayes, Pat Dalsanders, Jim Kimmel from the NSA, Sonny Carmen from ASA, Charlie LaRoche from USSSA, Chet Tyl from ISA, Don Stratton from ISA, and also all the team sponsors. I also want to thank my son-in-law Jeff Wallace, Brett Helmer, Hank Garris and Dan Houchin for taking their time to put on a fantastic hitting clinic for me on Friday. My heartfelt thanks goes out to my good friends here in Daytona, who without them I could of never had done this by myself, and they are Jack Ralston, Glen Walker, Don McMahon, Ray Maraviglia, Ray Cummings, and of course our scorekeeper Sue Heisey and most definitely all my senior players, whom I play senior ball with here in Daytona for their full support of my efforts, both at the batting challenge, the hitting clinic and al the games played. Lastly I want to thank the Comfort Inn Suites for their hospitality to
all the teams and reps.and to the Team CD Hospitality Marketing International, Carene Darcy and Del Reitzel for making all the hotel reservations for the teams for me.