Ormond Beach, Fla. was the site of this WSL/NSA Super Qualifier NIT. This four field baseball complex was a perfect place for a “Big Time” softball tournament. There were seven of the Top 15 teams in the country entered playing on these big fields, 328′, 380′, 400′. Hague/Resmondo/Taylor Bros./Miken ended up winning this controversial tournament. The controversial part of this tourney was the ball. The ball used to start the tournament was the .47 core .525 Trump that was perfect for these fields. The problems were one, we didn’t have enough here to complete the tournament. Two, we could not retrieve the balls out of the ponds and woods. Eddie Ray Cantrell got balls to complete the tournament from the Florida NSA Director who only had .47 core .525 Rawlings fast pitch balls and we had to use them. We started the 6 pm games on Sat. night using that ball beginning with the Hague/Alesium game and the ball flew pretty good for the Hague boys, as they had the highest scoring game by one team in the tournament beating Chase 43-9. The Hague squad hit 9 homeruns. In the Dan Smith/Backman/Menosse/Easton game against Sunbelt/Mizuno the ball didn’t fly as well as the Smith boys won 20-0. The 9:00 pm game in the winner’s bracket final Hague vs. Dan Smith got started when Hague’s lead off hitter Jeff Wallace stepped on one that looked like it was going out by 50′ but got caught at the 328′ mark and the tone was set. The players I think thought that the ball wasn’t going to fly and decided we better base hit it going back side and the middle. Demond Thomas hit a bullet off pitcher Andy Purcell’s leg and the middle was open. Todd Martin came up in the bottom of the inning and hit a line drive to the left of pitcher Shane Dubose, who was falling off the mound to the left trying to make a play, which then hit Shane’s glove and deflected off and hit him in the head. I don’t believe that any player would ever try to intentionally hurt anybody. The Smith boys took the lead, and then Hague came to bat and the ball began to fly a little, as they hit 5 homeruns and went on to win 19-7. There’s no question that the Rawlings ball was a softer ball than the Trump ball, but it went out as it did in the Hague/Chase game. Sunday with the warm temperatures and the wind blowing straight in from left, center and right center field with the only chance of homeruns being down the right field line. The only homerun hit to left field was hit by Hank Garris, which just dropped over the 328′ mark. Bryson Baker hit one foul about 20′ over the left field fence, and that was it for left field. What was amazing is that none of the other big homerun hitters in this game tried to hit it out of left field. It seemed to me they were trying to hit to center and some were trying to go backside. The conditions in this game were very bad for the hitters, and I don’t care what ball they used, other than a .50 core, there weren’t going to be many homeruns hit in this game period. I am sure some of the boys tried to adjust, but it was very hard to get base hits with 90′ bases, so we got a 10-7 game and a 6-3 game. I don’t care what teams played in these conditions on these sized fields with 90′ bases, with the wind blowing in the scores would of been the same or less. I read posts after posts about how Rich’s Superior and other teams would never score either 6 or 3 runs, but believe me they would not of done any better than these teams here did. Let me take you back a few years; at Space Coast Stadium in Cocoa, Fla. I witnessed one of the high power teams in the country, Bell Corp/Easton playing with a .50 core ball, using 65′ bases with the wind blowing straight in get beat by a little old B team 3-2 and 5-3, so don’t think conditions don’t come into play. I promise you that the players today are stronger and more athletic with playing on 90′ bases on big fields, using better equipment than the players from yesteryear. I will not take anything away from the great Rich’s Superior team and any other great teams, but it’s a whole different game playing on these big baseball fields using 90′ bases and that is just the facts. This game has come down to players being able to run, catch it, hit and hit for power. The days of 280 lb. outfielders are over, believe me. Baseball fields and 90′ bases is making this game come down to better athletes with teams only having the best big players who can hit the long ball and base hit it, with the only positions available being first base, catcher or AH for them, leaving the other players to be able to pick it and go get it in the outfield. Like it or not this is “Big Time softball in 2003” and beyond.
Now getting back to the tournament, there were some great games in this one. The Hague/Resmondo/Taylor Bros./Miken team won this battle of the two giants, and also the first battle of the two new bats in big time softball, the Miken and the Easton Synergy. MVP, Andy Purcell was a force for the Miken boys as he pitched and played great defense to lead his team to victory. Todd Martin also hit it good, but his titanic defensive play was a difference in this one, making great play after play. Bryson Baker, the dominative player from California has become one “awesome player”, who can flat out play this game. He has amazing power for a guy of his stature, and it this time is playing the best ball in the game. Bryson is gaining a lot of respect from his peers. This was the first NIT win for the Hague/Resmondo team since they became a Super team three years ago, and I’m sure it took a lot of pressure off of Travis and Jeff and the whole Resmondo staff. Dal Beggs also made some great plays all weekend long for the Hague boys. Congratulations to the Hague/Resmondo/Taylor Bros/Miken team on their big win. Second place went to Dan Smith/Backman/Menosse/Easton who played very good all weekend long in these conditions. Dan Smith was led by veteran pitcher, Shane Dubose, who is one gutsy player and a “First Class” guy and has been one of the top players in the game for years. Demond Thomas was the offensive leader for the Easton boys and played great defense until he got hurt in the first game of the championship and didn’t play the rest of the tournament. Brett Helmer was a big factor, as he base hit very good and contributed 7 homeruns to the Smith attack. Jason Kendrick and Robin Higginbotham made some unbelievable catches as they always do. Make no mistake about it, this team is very good and will be a force all season long. Dennis Rulli was a big pick-up for this team, as he shores up the middle in the Dan Smith infield. Great job guys and I’m looking forward to the next time in Spartanburg when the two giants meet again. Third place in this one and $5,000 travel expense money goes to Alesium/Chase/Reece/Rooster/Easton. This bunch will be reckoned with all season. The Easton boys have a host of very good players and will be a tough team to play against down the road. They have the talent to win another World with veteran manager Gary Jost at the helm. I’m sure the job will get done. In fourth place was US Vinyl/Z-Wear/Anaconda Sports/Miken. The Miken boys have declared that they will play as a Major team in the NSA this season, and also a Major team in the USSSA. I can’t speak about the ISA or ASA about this team at this point. This team will be a contender every weekend. They can hit it, and when they catch it they can beat anybody. SCI/Miken is a very good A team who are very competitive, and when they play their level they will be definitely a team to contend with in the World’s, also playing very good with the big boys. Vernon’s/Miken is just like SCI/Miken being the same type of team with a lot of talent, and they will also be a contender in their Worlds. Sunbelt/Mizuno is off to a slow start, but they will get it together and watch out when they do, they will win. The Big Donkey C team, who is a very good team at their level, was a treat to watch playing against the big boys. They gave it all they had and enjoyed playing against those big teams. The manager said to me after the game, “we got a chance to play against the best players in the world, playing our first time on baseball fields and 90′ bases. We learned how good these big teams really are especially defensively. They certainly are not just big guys hitting homeruns”.
I would like to say that the young man from Minnesota, Tony Van Grinsven drove 30 hours one way to play with Big Donkey. I met this young man last year at the rookie try out camp in Las Vegas and he showed he had some talent. He is putting every effort he can to try to make it to his next level. He deserves a lot of credit, and even though he struggled a little bit this weekend on these big fields he has the talent to move up. The team For Kids Sake, who called me before the tournament to ask if they could play in this Daytona tournament told me they were a Class C team out of the Orlando area. I explained to them the format of the tournament and there were 7 of the top teams in the world entered and asked them are you sure you want to play, and they said they would. Let me tell you they were a pleasure to have here. They had a lot of fun playing and had an experience of a lifetime, but I’m sure those young kids will never forget playing against the best teams in the world. Thanks for coming boys. We’ll see you in Panama City Beach in Sept. Overall with the problems with the ball this was a very good tournament and it doesn’t get much better when you have seven of the top teams in the country. I want to say thank you to Eddie Ray Cantrell and his NSA staff for doing another great job running this tournament.