SPA News

What's Happening in Senior Softball

Eyes of Texas On Layla Bryan Memorial

GEORGETOWN TOURNAMENT AGAIN DRAWS THIRTY TEAMS

GEORGETOWN,TX - The recording stars ALABAMA said, ".....if you're going to play in Texas, you have to have a fiddle in the band."

Senior softball players say, "If you're going to play in TEXAS, you have to play SPA'S LAYLA BRYAN MEMORIAL tournament."

Not to sound like a broken record but the MCMASTERS ATHLETIC COMPLEX in GEORGETOWN, TEXAS again drew THIRTY PLUS teams to the ANNUAL LAYLA BRYAN MEMORIAL SPA tournament.

" I think the drawing power of the event is a great tribute to LAYLA," SPA PRESIDENT/CEO RIDGE HOOKS said, "This tournament was LAYLA'S baby, she put her heart and soul into it every year and today it continues to flourish in her memory."

Seven divisional bracket champions were crowned this year starting with HILL CONTRACTING in the four-team 75/80 bracket.

The TEXAS team went 3-0 in bracket play beating TEXAS CLASSICS 24-9, HARRIS AUCTION 18-11 and edging HARRIS AUCTION 12-11 in the title game. ALAMO CITY TRAVELERS rounded out the field.

Five teams squared off in the five-team 70 PLUS group. OKC RELICS ran the table on the way to the title. OKC disposed of STILL (25-10), TEXAS LEGENDS 70's (24-18) and beat the TEXAS LEGENDS again, this time 15-13 for the championship. Others in the bracket were AUSTIN WIZARDS and TEXAS CLASSICS 70's.

In a three-team 65 PLUS SILVER bracket the DALLAS SPURS took the top prize after beating TEXAS RATTLERS (41-19) and TEXAS EAGLES (22-17).

CENTEX 65'S won the 65 PLUS GOLD wrapping it up on a forfeit win over SAN ANTONIO LEGENDS. Earlier CENTEX beat BOYD METALS 29-14 and SAN ANTONIO 23-19. The TEXAS LEGENDS were the fourth team in the bracket.

HOUSTON FIRE beat AUSTIN WIZARDS 18-16, OOPS SOFTBALL 23-8 and TEXAS THUNDER 23-18 in the title game of the five-team 60 PLUS group.

TACOMA MB FLYING also was in the 60 PLUS bracket,

The 55/60 MAJOR CROWN was won by SAN ANTONIO 55 SOFTBALL CLUB. LEGENDS OF TEXAS were SECOND followed by GONZALES INSULATION 60's.

A neighboring state team, TEAM ARKANSAS won the 50 PLUS PLATINUM crown beating TEXAS PLAYERS twice including 37-19 in the title game. The TEXAS PLAYERS reached the finals by knocking off TEXAS MAVERICKS 37-24.

TEXAS ELITE swept the competition in winning the 50 PLUS GOLD bracket championship. TEXAS ELITE beat MIXED BREED 26-15 in the finale. MIXED BREED came out of the loser's bracket by beating AUSTIN ROCK 29-24.

It was a tough tournament for AUSTIN ROCK who lost their two bracket games by a total of only six runs, five runs to MIXED BREED and one run (15-14) to TEXAS ELITE.

SPA will return to the LONE STAR state AUGUST 26-30 when COLLEGE STATION will host the SPA SALUTE TO VETERANS NIT.

Please contact SPA OFFICE at (405) 376-7034 or E-MAIL spaoffice@softballspa.net for further information.

SPA 2015 Montgomery Tournament Tops Forty Teams

LAGOON PARK SOFTBALL COMPLEX IS A GREAT HOST

 MONTGOMERY, ALABABMA - Combine a great location with the reputation of a well-run tournament and the result is predictable.

For the third straight year the SOUTHERN SPA NIT IN MONTGOMERY ALABAMA an increased attendance, this year attracting FORTY TEAMS.

 Over the past three years the MONTGOMERY TOURNAMENT has increased from thirty teams to thirty-five teams and this year to forty teams,” SPA PRESIDENT RIDGE HOOKS said, “ That is an increase of over ten-percent each year and this year's total of FORTY TEAMS is higher than THIRTY-SEVEN other senior tournaments conducted east of VEGAS by all other senior organizations in 2014.”

 Tournament Director for the 2015 MONTGOMERY TOURNAMENT DON CHERRY also was excited about the continued increase in teams.

 The increase has a lot to do with LAGOON PARK ,” CHERRY said, “ LAGOON PARK is one of the best complexes on the senior softball circuit and the people in charge of the facility do a tremendous job in keeping it that way. we had a great tournament with lots of new teams and new winners”

 The forty-team tournament at MONTGOMERY, MARCH 12-15 saw EIGHT CHAMPIONS crowned in the 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 age groups.

 ADIKTIVE MERCHANTS ran the table in the 50 MAJOR BRACKET downing TEAM ARKANSAS (31-14), DOC C'S (34-33), MONSTER SOFTBALL (32-25) and MONSTER SOFTBALL again, this time in the title game 35-24 to take the top prize.

 Others in the six team bracket were ALABAMA BRICK and ATLANTA MONRACH MIKENS.

In the 50 AAA team, another GEORGIA TEAM, MAJOR LEAGUE MIKEN, went home with the “brass ring”.

 MAJOR LEAGUE MIKEN downed AFINITY ELEVATOR 10-5 and BLUEGRASS SOFTBALL twice (20-15, 28-15) for the 50 AAA crown.

 Filling out the five-team bracket were MONTGOMERY SWARM and NORTH GEORGIA OUTLAWS,

 Three teams battled in the 50/55 MAJOR PLUS BRACKET with TSC MIKEN coming out on top, TSC had to beat PLE 41-34 in the “IF” game to escape with the title after PLE forced the deciding match with 31-25 win over the “champs”.

 NEXT LEVEL was the third team in the field

 TENNESSEE'S EDGE SOFTBALL bested FLORIDA'S DAVID BOWEN SPORTING GOODS 34-15 and 23-22 in a best two-out-of-three showdown for the 5/60 MAJOR CROWN.

 The 55AAA title went to DT EXPRESS, who had to survive a late rush by GAS.

 In the four-team bracket, DT EXPRESS sent GAS into the loser's bracket with a 19-18 win in the opener. The EXPRESS gang took care of the BAMA OLD GUYS 31-20 in the next game and then sat back and waited for their next opponent.

 In the meantime, GAS eliminated JR TRUCKING 24-9 and the BAMA OLD GUYS 17-7 to earn another shot at DT EXPRESS. This time GAS won 24-15 to force an “IF” game. The title game was close all the way but DT EXPRESS held on for the 16-12 win and claim the 55 AAA crown.

 SIX TEAMS squared off in the 60 BRACKET with RANDY SMITH going undefeated to win the championship. It wasn't easy though as the champs had to survive a pair of one-run wins on their way to the title.

 RANDY SMITH knocked off COLUMBUS LX 24-19 and BOYS OF SUMMER 23-22 before beating COLUMBUS LX 16-15 in the title match.

 COLUMBUS LX after losing the opener to RANDY SMITH beat ATLANTA RECYCLING, STRYKERS and BOYS OF SUMMER to make it to the championship game.

DIXIE SOFTBALL and RANEW rounded out the six-team bracket.

 MUSTANGS won the four-team 65 BRACKET with three straight wins over EXTREME HEAT and HUFFMAN ELECTRIC twice.

 SLO SOX was the fourth team in the bracket.

 SOUTHEAST LEFTOVERS made up for their 2014 runner-up spot by winning this year's 70/75 title. The 75 MAJOR LEFTOVERS claimed the crown beating 70 AAA BROOKS AND CRIM 12-11 and 75 MAJOR ED'S ALUMINUM 20-4.

 The 75 AAA GEORGIA CLASSICS filled out the four team bracket.

"It was a great tournament and we expect to increase attendance again next year," concluded CHERRY.

Women's March 2015 Editorial

MEMORIES

Michigan Mavericks, the Oldest Women’s Senior Softball Team.  Kay Oswait, 90-years-old was the coach and Jerry Gawara, at the time was 92-years-old.  Kay just passed away three weeks ago after suffering from cancer for 12 years.  The Michigan Mavericks are from Garden City, Michigan. 

Kay Oswait was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania.  She played fast pitch, modified fast-pitch, and then slow-pitch softball.    She was a pitcher, catcher and outfielder.  She began playing senior softball in 1989.  She was manager and player despite some major health issues.  She had a fall in 2007 resulting in a fractured hip and thereafter became the manager of the Mavericks 75+.  Kay is one of those pioneers that paved the way for all the younger female players.

Kay wrote about Jerry Gawara – She is now 91-years-old and would still be playing if we had enough players over 80 to play  In 1988, Jerry played shortstop in the Women’s Senior Olympics in St. Louis.  One of Jerry Opponent wrote, “I had the privilege of playing against her (Jerry) as well as with her.  She played various positions but noted for her stamina with her pitching.  She was a good hitter.  Jerry’s personality is one of graciousness and humbling demeanor.  She is competitive, but in a civil way.  She cares about others on the team and opponents.  Because of Jerry, Judy Lee had  the pitching rule changed to allow her to pitch 2 innings, rest, and then come back into the game; plus allowing 12 players on the field for this age group.

Judy Lee Schreiber wrote, “They (Jerry and Kay) are an inspiration to all of us younger ladies and they keep us on our toes because they are not sitting at home twiddling their thumbs.”  Kay is the one that always said to me, “NEVER give up on helping the Senior Women to play ball. “  She was my encouragement all of these years.  I loved this lady.  She is one in a million.”

Below is the Women’s Softball Tournament Schedule for 2015.  If you happen to live or happen to be in one of these cities during tournament play, please stop by and cheer them on and welcome them to your city.

 

Oh No, My Roster’s Been Frozen! …. What Now?

 The question is asked again and again at softball events everywhere, and the answers may not be the same depending upon the sanctioning organization rules for any particular tournament.  So let’s talk about SPA’s rules, what they mean, and why they might be the way that they are.

 Why do we have such rules?

 When softball players or athletes in general come to the park to compete, it’s just human nature that everybody wants a chance to be competitive or at least a glimmer of hope that they might win.  For that reason, most softball organizations, SPA included, try to “classify” the teams, such that similar skill levels wind up competing together.  Let’s face it nobody (win or lose) enjoys the “run-away” games that wind up forty to nothing embarrassments.  So teams are grouped and classified to try to give everybody a sporting chance.

 Classifying teams is a difficult task at best, when one considers that these teams are traveling and playing all around the country, sometimes with one organization and sometimes with another.  The task of evaluating and classifying teams becomes almost impossible, when the teams show up with different players at every tournament.  Let’s face it there are too many teams out there that will “load-up” with new and better players at every opportunity.  While we all understand that it is a necessity for teams to occasionally replace players, constant wholesale change just to “sandbag” and build a team that is stronger than its classification is wrong, and destroys any chance of proper classification for that team as the season progresses.

 To make classification meaningful in both its men’s and women’s programs, SPA has chosen to “freeze” each team’s roster, when that team plays its first tournament of the year.  In other words, when a team “qualifies” for the World Tournament by playing in any SPA tournament, that team’s roster is going to be held to rules designed to maintain the team’s classification.

 What does “frozen” mean? Are we stuck?

 Does this mean that I can’t play anywhere else?

 There is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what a “frozen roster” really is in SPA, so let’s see if we can answer some of the concerns.  First of all, a player is NOT stuck on a roster once it has been “frozen”.  SPA has no restrictions on players being dropped from a qualified roster, except to say that once dropped a player may not return to that same qualified team.  No releases or approvals are required. So if a player wants to leave their team to join another team, he/she may certainly do so, as long as he/she is eligible to be added to their new team’s roster.  Likewise, it is legal in SPA for a player to be on more than one roster and play with more than one team, as long as those rosters are for different age groups. There are special rules concerning “double-rostering” that allow for playing on two teams in the same tournament with restrictions, but as long as a player is playing with another age group on separate weekends, then there is no problem or restriction.

  What if a player is sick or injured? Are we just out of luck?

 Once a team’s roster has been “frozen”, everybody understands that there will be times when illness, injury, or unforeseen circumstances will require an additional player.  To try to accommodate these needs, SPA allows any team to add 2 players to its “qualified” (frozen) roster, but to try to keep the classification issues in line they require that these players come from a higher age division.  This way a team can still keep their qualification to World, continue to compete, and yet still remain within their current classification rating.

 Is there any way that a roster can be “Unfrozen” so that we can start over?

 Sure, we all know that a situation may arise that forces a team to have to totally regroup and just start over.  Whatever the circumstance that might cause this to happen, because now we are dealing with groups of new players from the same age group, it necessitates the need for a brand new evaluation of that team’s classification rating.  For that reason, SPA requires a team that needs to be “unfrozen” to officially register that need, so that the roster can be opened and the classification review process can begin anew for that team.  In line with this review, the team is required to “re-qualify” for the World tournament by playing in an additional SPA event.  This re-qualification gives the classification committee an opportunity to evaluate the newly formed team in a game situation.

 We all wish that this was an ideal world, where every team is competitive and the old “you get yours and we’ll get ours” mentality could work, but that’s just not the world that we live in.  The rules that SPA has put in place represent a very honest attempt to make the game more enjoyable for all.

  

Women's Program December 2014 Editorial

Once again it is the season to be thankful. We have had a year of wonderful tournaments with the comradery of all of our old and new found friends in softball that only tournaments can provide.

In 1997 is when I first went to USSSA as the Women’s Director with our Tennessee State USSSA Director Randy Smith is where I met Ridge Hooks, Executive with USSSA at that time.  Between Randy, Ridge and Billy Lee Yarbrough they helped me get our first USSSA Senior Women's World Tournament in Nashville, TN in 1998. We had 6 teams and built it from there every year. For twelve years we only had one tournament a year until I went with Ridge Hooks at SPA as the SPA Women's National Director. Ladies and Gentleman we now have 6 tournaments a year, thanks to Mr. Hooks believing in the women's program.  

&nbspDecember 9-12th, SPA will have an Executive meeting in Yukon, OK where we will have viable discussions and hopefully solutions to change some things that the coaches talked about at our meeting in Dalton, GA. The Dalton meeting was very successful and all of our Executive Committee was there to hear the Coaches’ giving their great ideas for 2015.  So Ladies 2015 will be a great year for all of us. The SPA Staff Members would like to thank each and every team for playing in our Association in years gone by and the many years to come.

We also wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year. God Bless Everyone.

SPA 2014 World Tournament Sets Record

TOURNAMENT CONTINUES TO GROW IN BOTH MEN AND WOMEN

 DALTON , GEORGIA – It was another banner year for the SPA ORGANIZATION in 2014 as the SPA WORLDS ATTENDANCE hit a new high with 166 teams attending.

The increase in the WORLDS attendance kept pace with SPA'S overall growth for 2014. In the mid-west and east alone, SPA averaged over 40 teams per tournament drawing over 800 teams for the twenty tournaments in that region.

"This has been a very good year for SPA,” SPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RIDGE HOOKS said about the 2014 tournament attendance,”The totals and the increase show that SPA is continuing to put on quality well attended tournaments which are drawing teams to our events.”

 Overall SPA crowned in the 80, 75 GOLD, 75 SILVER, 75 MAJOR, 70 AAA, 70 AA, 70 MAJOR, 65 AAA, 65 AA, 65 MAJOR, 65 MAJOR PLUS, 60 AAA, 60 AA, 60 MAJOR, 60 MAJOR PLUS, 55 AAA, 55 MAJOR, 50 AAA, 50 MAJOR and 50 MAJOR PLUS.

(ARTICLE ON THE 75'S, 80'S , 50'S MAJOR, 50'S MAJOR PLUS, 60 MAJOR, 60 MAJOR PLUS and 75 MAJORS have been covered previously):

2014 CHAMPS

50 AAA - 1. TEAM ELITE CC MIKEN (MD), RATED ATHLETES (CAL); 2.DAYTON LEGENDS HITMEN (OH) (13 TEAMS)

50 MAJOR – 1. RATED ATHLETES (CAL), 2. GOOD TIMES (FLA) (15 TEAMS)

50 MAJOR PLUS – 1. DLB SOFTBALL (WIS), 2.MID-ATLANTIC (VA) (8 TEAMS)

55 AAA – 1.DAVID BOWEN SPORTS (FLA), 2. DT EXPRESS (TN) (7 TEAMS)

55 MAJOR – 1. DOCS (OH), 2. SWEET CONSTRUCTION (NJ) (10 TEAMS)

60 AA – 1. CAVCO SPORTS (ONT,CAN); 2. TENNESSEE 60'S (TN) (5 TEAMS)

60 AAA - 1.ELITE 60'S (GA), 2. REALITY CHECK (NC) (23 TEAMS)

60 MAJOR – 1. GONZALES INSULATION (TX), 2. CRYSTAL COBRAS (NC), 2. KC KIDS (KS) (5 TEAMS)

60 MAJOR PLUS – 1. SUPERIOR SR SOFTBALL (VA), 2. MN MASTERS WHITE (MINN) (3 TEAMS)

65 AA – 1. CHICAGO HITMEN (IL). 2. THE FIRM (TENN) (9 TEAMS)

65 AAA - 1. CARRIAGE HOMES (AR), 2. US DOT JOBS (IND) (9 TEAMS)

65 MAJOR – 1. BEACH BOYZ (FL), 2. SW FLORIDA THUNDER (FL) (9 TEAMS)

65 MAJOR PLUS – 1. HAMEL BUILDERS/SUPERIOR (VA), 2. BEEF O'BRADY'S (FL) (3 TEAMS)

70 AA – 1. CHICAGO GRAT SOX (IL), 2. DAYTON LEGENDS 70'S (OH) (4 TEAMS)

70 AAA – 1. SCRAP IRON LEGACY (CO), 2. SENIOR REDBIRDS (IL) (15 TEAMS)

70 MAJOR – 1. FRANKIE BRIN FINANCIAL (FL), 2. SOUTHEAST LEFTOVERS (GA). (2 TEAMS)

75 SILVER – 1. PEACHTREE RESTAURANT (PA), 2. LOUISVILLE THUNDER (KY) (7 TEAMS)

75 GOLD – 1. CHICAGO GEEZERS (IL), 2. NEW JERSEY JAGS (NJ) (6 TEAMS)

75 MAJOR – 1. THE LEFTOVERS (GA), 2. HAMELS 75'S (MD) (4 TEAMS)

80 AAA – 1. PROHEALTH CARE (WIS), 2. TEXAS CLASSICS (TX) (5 TEAMS)

 POOL AND BRACKET PLAY SCORES MAY BE FOUND ON THE SPA RESULTS PAGE AND ALSO FRONT PAGE.

 

TEAM ELITE /CC / MIKEN WINS SPA 2014 50 AAA WORLDS

MARYLAND TEAM RUNS MARATHON AT TO TAKE CHAMPIONSHIP

 DALTON, GEORGIA – TEAM ELITE CC MIKEN got their money's worth at the SPA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS at DALTON, GEORGIA'S HERITAGE POINT PARK, using three pool games and six bracket games to win the SPA 2014 50 AAA TITLE.

 The MARYLAND team went 2-1 in pool play and 5-1 in bracket play, winning their last three loser-goes-home games to win the championship.

 Our backs were definitely to the wall,” SPA 50 AAA MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR and TEAM ELITE MANAGER RAY 'RINGO” JONES said, “ But we went into the tournament with the attitude the tougher it was going to be, the tougher we would play.”

 Not a real unique strategy but the first-year team was definitely unique in another way. You sure needed a program to know who was playing where. It was almost like the ABBOTT and COSTELLO routine “WHO'S ON FIRST.”

 Where other teams have names like BOB, BILL, JOHN, etc, TEAM ELITE'S roster was sprinkled with names such as HILLBILLY, POPS, J HOLLYWOOD, BUZZ, 50/50, RAZ and RINGO. And they all were versatile and played different positions from one game to the next.

 Those nicknames are the ones you can print, they also have others you can't print,” JONES laughed. “When we put this team together this year our main objective was the players would have versatility and be able to play at least a couple of different positions.”

 They needed the versatility because only twelve players made the 11-hour trip to DALTON. All 12 played in the pool games but only 11 were used in each of the bracket games with one player being kept in reserve in case of injury.

 The versatility we had played a huge part in us winning the championship,” JONES said, “I had to constantly manipulate the line-up in regards to both batting order and defensive positions due to injuries.”

 Falling into the loser's bracket and playing all those extra games didn't help us either,” he added, “Guys were really wearing down and it was hard to find fresh legs.”

 After falling in the pool opener to the DAYTON HITMEN 17-12, they ran off four wins in a row beating STILL SWINGING (20-15) and NORTH GEORGIA OUTLAWS (23-15) in pool play and then SOUTHERN HURRICANES (29-23) and FINANCIAL EAGLES (15-11) in bracket playing before losing again.

 We lost to DAYTON again, this time 23-18,” assistant coach JIM “50/50” GALLAGHER said, “They just beat us, it looked like we weren't ready to play. We were really inconsistent at bat and in the field.”

 From there on things changed for the better. What changed them?

 Let's just say we had some good dialogue between everyone,” GALLAGHER said, “It wasn't a gripe session, we just discussed what we had to do better so we could really focus in on what we were here to do.”

 The session worked as TEAM ELITE opened SUNDAY beating FINANCIAL EAGLE 20-15 then forcing an “IF” game with a 26-17 victory over DAYTON and followed that with a 21-14 decision against DAYTON in the title game.

 That was a great feeling,” JONES said, “To win a tournament against the competition in this tournament was fantastic. There really were a lot of great teams here and everyone was capable of winning it all, we just got hot on SUNDAY and that carried us through.”

 Earning MVP TOURNAMENT honors was SAM MANNS. The first baseman hit .861, including nine HR'S and 38 RBI'S. In addition he was involved in several key defensive double plays.

 Joining MANNS on the ALL-AMERICAN TEAM were JIM “50/50” GALLAGHER (2B,.722), DARYL (HILLBILLY) BILLINGS (LCF, .727), ROBBIE WINNER (OF, .784), JIM “RAZ” RASNAKE (P,.600) and ROBERT “BUZZ” SMITH (OF, .778)

Other members of TEAM ELITE CC MIKEN are: MIKE BEDELL (DNP), MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR RAY “RINGO” JONES (OF, .676), RANDY LOTT (DNP), BRIAN (CAVEMAN) WEIMAN ( LF, .677), CLIFF (BIG DOG) CURTAIN (DH,.583), CHRIS “POPS” FLEISCH (SS, .586), HOWARD COHEN (DNP), DANNY PIPER (DNP), BARRY LYNN (3B,.594), JIM “HOLLYWOOD” SMITH (DNP) and KEITH DELANEY (C,EH, .697)

 It hasn't been an easy first year for TEAM ELITE despite winning the 50 AAA SPA WORLDS. Injuries have been common, just notice the “DNP'S” on the above roster.

We started with eighteen players on the roster,” GALLAGHER explained, “But we were never able to have more than 12-or-13 at any tournament because of injuries and other commitments. We were lucky to make it here with 12 players.”

 Besides all the sponsor names listed as TEAM ELITE CC MIKEN, the team is self sponsored except for some help from teammate CLIFF CURTAIN, who has a trucking company in CATONSVILLE, MARYLAND and HARDESTY HEATING AND AIR CONDITIOING plus a few other anonymous sponsors.

 As you can tell by all our nicknames, this team is really loose and has fun together,” GALLAGHER said, “We all enjoy traveling and playing ball together. The chemistry is so good and everybody is willing to go that extra mile to help the team win. Playing with these guys makes playing senior softball just a much more enjoyable experience.”

 GALLAGHER and JONES both had high praise for RIDGE HOOKS and the SPA WORLDS.

 Other organizations can take a lesson from the way RIDGE runs the SPA tournament.” they said, 'Having three umpires for the championship game is something we have never seen before and all the umpires who worked the tournament were the very best we have ever had.”

 We loved the complex and the opening ceremony was just fantastic,” they added, “It was really worth the long drive and it was a great experience, we will always remember.”

 

CHICAGO GRAY SOX 70'S WIN FIRST SPA WORLD TITLE

            REBOUND FROM LOSER'S BRACKET TO WIN 70 AA CROWN

DALTON, GEORGIA - The CHICAGO GRAY SOX made their first appearance as a 70's team in the SPA WORLDS a memorable one by winning the 70 AA TITLE at DALTON, GEORGIA'S HERITAGE POINT PARK SEPTEMBER 4-7.

This wasn't just our first time winning the SPA WORLDS as a 70's team,” MANAGER MIKE FOSTER said. ”This was also our first ever SPA WORLD title at any age level.”

 The GRAY SOX, who still have eleven players (CHARLIE BYRUM, RICHIE DOUGLAS, JACK FELVER, FOSTER, GARY HEIFNER, ROY IVERSON, KENNY KIRK, ROGER LENART, WAYNE MARKETT, JERRY SANTERELLI and GARY STONE) from the original 2003 team, had to really work to win the championship.

They started out fine winning both pool games against LEIDEN'S LEGENDS (24-10), DAYTON LEGENDS (20-16), and their first bracket game 11-4 against LEIDEN’S again. But an 18-12 loss to DAYTON in the second round ushered the GRAY SOX into the dreaded losers' bracket.

We were surprised how strong the 70 AA competition was,” FOSTER said. “Nobody was able to run away with the title and every team was capable of winning it all.”

After catching their second wind, The GRAY SOX knocked off the INDIANAPOLIS CLASSICS (13-10) and then forced an “IF” game with DAYTON by escaping with a 10-9 win.

  That was a close one,” FOSTER said. “Our defense was the difference.

 ” The GRAY SOX had everything working in the title game beating the OHIO team 20-11 for the championship.

 We were really tired after that championship game,” FOSTER said. “It was our fourth game of the day (11:00,12:30, 2:00, 3:30) and third against DAYTON. We were really worried about them coming into the tournament because they handled us pretty well at SYLVANIA, OHIO.”

 FOSTER said the biggest key to them winning the tournament was the entire roster.

  We play everyone on the roster and rotate them not only every game but even every few innings,” he explained. “It keeps everyone fresh and makes a huge difference, especially at age 70. We don't lose anything with the changes because most of us are about even in playing ability.”

 One player, who did not rotate much was tournament MVP JIM DUCHARME, who led the team in hitting.

  Joining DUCHARME on the ALL-AMERICAN team were DOUGLAS, IVERSON, STONE, JACK ZUZAK and JIM MANNING.

 Others on the team are: EDDIE ACCOMANDO, ROGER LENART, JACK WATKINS, EDDIE DUNN and JIM HANDLEY.

 KIRK Received the SPA 70 AA MANAGE-OF-THE-YEAR AWARD. KIRK, who has been the third base coach and assistant manager all year, ran the team in DALTON.

 In addition to the large travel team roster, the GRAY SOX also have a faithful fan base which accompanies them. Serving as cheerleaders, social planners and “nurses” to the team are BARB DOUGLES, CONNIE DUCHARME, RONI WIDRI, KATHLEEN DUNN, BONNIE BYRUM, DIANNE FOSTER, and LINDA HEIFNER

 . The wives have been a great support group to us at all of our tournaments and we really appreciate them,” FOSTER said.

 Even though the team is self sponsored, they do attend a lot of tournaments.

 DALTON was our EIGHTH this year and the only we one we won,” FOSTER said. “We usually try to attend 10 or 11 each year, with most being around our area.”

 Comparing the SPA WORLDS to others the GRAY SOX have played, FOSTER had this to say,

  The SPA WORLDS are great. It is a tremendous facility, the umpires are outstanding and the competition is excellent.", the manager said, " The OPENING CEREMONIES and the WIVES BREAKFAST are just fantastic. No other organization has anything like that. RIDGE (HOOKS) and SPA really do a great job with their WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. We certainly look forward to attending it again.”

CHICAGO HITMEN LIVE UP TO THEIR NAME

         POWER ATTACK LEADS TO 65 AA SPA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

 DALTON, GEORGIA – If ever a team lived up to their name it was the CHICAGO HITMEN, who captured the SPA 2014 WORLD 65 AA CHAMPIONSHIP at DALTON, GEORGIA'S HERITAGE POINT PARK, SEPTEMBER 11-14.

Over seven games (3 pool, 4 bracket) the HITMEN batted .769 outscored their opponents 152 (21.7) to 90 (12.8) and won all seven games in the nine-team 65 AA field.

We did hit well but it wasn't as easy as it sounds,” SPA 65 AA MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR MIKE SABATINO said, “In three of the games including the final two we trailed by at least five runs heading into the 5th inning.”

The games SABATINO was referring to were the tournament pool play opener against the DAYTON LEGENDS and the two final bracket games against THE FIRM.

Against DAYTON, the WINDY CITY guys trailed 21-12 heading into the seventh and erupted for 10 runs to win 22-21.

Against THE FIRM in the winner's bracket, the HITMEN rallied from a 17-12 deficit in the fifth inning to erupt for 22 runs in the final innings for a 34-17 win.

The championship game against THE FIRM was almost a duplication as the HITMEN trailed 18-12 fifth inning. They responded by scoring five runs in the sixth inning and 14 in the seventh for 31-20 championship clinching win.

SABATINO claims the way his team continually responded was due to patience, attitude and never giving up, even when they were behind. They gave it best they had.

We just had less talk and more action,” SABATINO said, “We never lost our confidence, kept our composure and always we believed we had the talent to rally back and win every game we played.”

The manager also stated they never take any team for granted and are usually prepared when they face that team in the tournament.

I scout each team during pool play and early bracket games so as to know what to expect,” he stated, “You can never take any team for granted and in tournament play you need every edge you can have and I believe scouting and knowing your opponent is a huge edge.”

Another edge the HITMEN have is they have nine players who who have been together since 2008. Over that span the team has won 70-percent of their tournament games but this is their first SPA WORLD TITLE.

We have come close a few times but this is the first time we have all been healthy coming to the tournament and that really made a difference,' SABATINO said.

The nine who have been with the team for the ten years are: STEVE DECORI (RC, .741), JOHN DOYLE (DNP), FELIX GARCIA (3B,.680), CO-MANAGER JIM KUPIEC (P. .800), RICK MASINO (P,.610), SABATINO (RF,.680), PHIL WHITMAN (C, .650), STEVE GAJDA (SS, .680) and DAN TODD (LF, .667).

Others on the team are: DAVID ABNEY (DVD), MIKE MCLENNAND (1B, .778), RICHARD DAHM (DNP), MIKE CHASTAIN (2B, .679), BUBBA RUSSELL (C/1B, .739) and TOURNAMENT MVP WARREN YORK (LC,.852).

The speedy left center fielder in addition to making outstanding defensive plays with both his arm and glove batted .852 to lead the team in hitting.

Joining YORK on the ALL-AMERICAN team were DECORI, KUPIEC, WHITMEN, CHASTAIN and GAJDA.

The team's sponsor is SUPREME LOBSTER OF VILLA PARK, ILLINOIS, owned by DOMINIC STRAMAGLIA..

DOMINIC has been sponsoring area softball and little league teams for at least 15 years and has been our sponsor since 2004,” SABATINO said, “He is really a great guy and his SEAFOOD is top of the line. He also ships from west coast to east coast and anywhere in-between"

Although the HITMEN have won other tournaments over the years, SABATINO says the team peaked at DALTON.

As a team. That is the best we have ever played in our history,” he stated,”We were patient at the plate and made the big plays on defense, If we needed a big hit or big defensive play we made it happen. We really played great.”

The manager also stated the secret to his team's success over the years is ,”.....we are like brothers, there are no ego trips. We all get along.”

As for the SPA, SABATINO gave both RIDGE HOOKS, the staff and the tournament high marks.

RIDGE (HOOKS) is a tremendous guy and runs a great tournament, it is first class,” he said, “ We loved the opening ceremony and the umpires were the best we have seen all year.. Every team in the tournament was tough and a great bunch of guys. It was a great tournament.”

I just wish SPA had tournaments closer to CHICAGO, so we could attend more SPA events. Maybe they can do that in 2015.”

''OH, CANADA” TOPS THE CHARTS AT DALTON

     CANADIAN DUET BIG HIT IN THE OPENING CEREMONIES

 DALTON, GEORGIA – Some times an unexpected mishap can turn into the biggest positive occurrence which could be experienced.

Such was the case at the opening ceremonies of the SPA 60 AA DIVISION WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS at DALTON, GEORGIA SEPTEMBER 11-14.

We were getting ready for the parade of flags when we realized we couldn't find the MAPLE LEAF CANADIAN flag,” SPA CEO RIDGE HOOKS said, “Fortunately CAVCO SPORTS from WINDSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA brought one they were going to put on the back of their dugout.”

Ah, but HOOKS and his opening ceremonies were still not out of the woods.

The CD we had for 'OH, CANADA' (the CANADIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM) was scratchy and not good at all. We were in a predicament with no other CD available.”

All was not lost as two members of the CAVCO SPORTS 60'S contingent volunteered to sing the anthem a cappella.

Stepping up to do the honors were TOM MCNORTON and AGNES DANDREA. Not only did they sing the anthem in perfect pitch but also added the French version.

It was the highlight of the Opening Ceremonies.

It was tremendous, “HOOKS said, “I wish we could have taped it and be able to use at all future Opening Ceremonies. I can not say enough about MCNORTON and DANDREA, they were fantastic.”

HOOKS also praised the CAVCO ladies for their baskets for the raffle at the LADIES BREAKFAST.

Probably one of the best raffle baskets we have ever had at the tournament,” HOOKS said, “The CANADIAN LADIES certainly brought their “A:” game and we are so pleased they attended the tournament.”

While the CAVCO LADIES did their part off the field, the men did theirs' on the field winning the SPA 2014 60 AA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP.

In addition, MCNORTON, who was half of the anthem singing duet was just as good on the field, earning ALL-AMERICAN selection.

Not bad for a CANADIAN.

And guess what. In the flag ceremony, the American contingent even raised the MAPLE LEAF right side up. It was a great day to be CANADIAN.

I hope their (CAVCO) experience was as great for them being here as it was for us (SPA) having them attend,” HOOKS said, “They made the 2014 SPA AA WORLDS a very special event and all of us hope they will be back in 2015. They are very special people.”