The fans came from all over, cheering on different teams and wearing different colors, but there was one thing that most of the fans coming into Nevada this past weekend felt the same about – Nevada has a great ballpark.
Fans and coaches especially loved the lush green outfields, perfectly mowed by Nevada’s Parks and Recreation Department in preparation for hosting the National “Class A” 14U ASA softball tournament. Nevada Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Rhonda Maier said the outfields, which many were talking about, are irrigated and on a great fertilizer program, which are important in maintaining the quality of the turf.
“Get dirty,” one coach yelled at her infielders. “Get green,” she yelled at her outfielders.
And get dirty and get green they did, as some of the best softball action that 13- and 14-year-old players are capable of producing took place on the four fields of the SCORE ballpark last Thursday through Sunday.
“When you get to this level, it gets pretty serious,” said Karen Kipp of Madison, Wis., who was relaxing between games with her husband, Steve, and their daughter, Candace, a catcher on the Mad City Chaos team.
“These girls work on softball three days a week year-round,” said Steve, himself a longtime fastpitch softball player.
The Kipps were attending their 11th tournament of the season with the Mad City Chaos, along with a group of 40 or so other parents and fans who travel with the team. They were excited to see a number of teams from Wisconsin in the tournament, saying they’ve come to know these teams as they’ve competed against many of them. When not watching their own girls play, they said it was fun to cheer on some of their other home-state teams. “It’s all about the kids,” Karen said. “That’s what we’re trying to teach (our girls).”
The Kipps weren’t alone in saying that they were enjoying their time in Nevada and the great fields and great people.
Sitting under the shade from one of the little trees at the SCORE park were Candace Wruck of Maple Grove, Minn., and Kris Ditommaso of Prior Lake, Minn., both traveling with the Minnesota Rebels out of Eden Prairie. They couldn’t say enough good things about the opening party that was put on the Wednesday before the tournament play began at SCORE. “It was just nice to spend time together,” Kris said. And they added that the parents and girls were really looking forward to the swim party at Fawcett Family Aquatic Center Friday night.
Maier said that funds from an Ames Community Grant received by the Nevada Parks and Recreation Department helped put on the opening party/ceremony, which was held at SCORE. “We wanted to make it something special that the kids would remember, and I think we were able to pull that off,” she said. The party included a deejay and dance, catered food, inflatables and a photo booth. It was attended by more than 700 people who came for the tournament. The swim party didn’t have as good a turnout on Friday, Maier said. That was probably due to the weekend’s cooler temperatures, but even though not as conducive to swimming, many commented that the mild weather was perfect for softball.
Melanie Dunkleberger of Ft. Atkinson, Wis., traveling with the Wisconsin Bandits Red team, said she was loving Nevada. “I love the downtown, just the feel of it,” she said, commenting on the interesting, older buildings. And, she added, she loved that there was a Ben Franklin store.
Near one of the fields, the company Fine Designs had set up shop under a big tent. Inside, Kelly Lindberg and Casey Movick were customizing T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants and other apparel-type items for customers. The two said their company, a national company, does about 300 events a year in the Great Plains Region (which includes Iowa). While they oftentimes work events alone, the two both came to Nevada last week, as the company considered the National “Class A” 14U tournament a “top-10” event.
They predicted that among the age group of this tournament, their rainbow (colored) and neon yellow short sleeved shirts would be the top sellers. And there were plenty of them to be seen as the weekend wore on.
Maier said she thought the tournament weekend went very, very well. “We had many wonderful compliments on the facilities, our staff and the tournament in general,” she said.
It all ended around 7:45 on Sunday evening, with an Iowa team out of Des Moines, the Iowa Sundevils, fighting their way back from the loser’s bracket to defeat the Kansas City Athletics Black team with two victories to earn the championship.
The tournament was the most prominent of the tournaments that Nevada has hosted and was among the biggest. “We will know more once all the numbers are in, revenue vs. expenses,” Maier said, “but I really believe this is something the community could build on. The whole community could benefit from hosting more tournaments like this. This was our first (national tournament) out of the gate - we learned a lot.”
And in the end, when she wasn’t busy with the field crew or picking up trash that had dropped on the ground or getting a soap refill for the bathroom or some other task, Maier, who loves the sport of softball, said the games were spectacular and so much fun to watch.
“Those girls were really good. They can hit the ball and there was some excellent pitching. It was exciting to see the final games and how competitive they were,” Maier said. “Because these girls are well coached and have a solid understanding of the game, they are allowed the opportunity to fully enjoy the game, to play the game at a high level and to really excel in this sport.”