The third weekend in July might not mean much to most people, but for those who play and watch fastpitch softball in the area, it's one of the weekends they look forward to the most during the summer.
When Big Daddy's Lounge takes on Woodstock, ON. at 6 p.m., Friday at Promenschenkel Stadium, it will mark the beginning of the 38th Annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Tournament.
This year the tournament will feature a total of 14 teams coming from New York - including four local teams - Pennsylvania, Ohio and Ontario, Canada, marking the largest field the tournament has seen in recent years.
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder III
Pictured above is Tim Wdowiasz, coordinator of the 38th Annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Tournament, delivering a pitch Wednesday during Dunkirk Men’s Fastpitch League action at Promenschenkel Stadium. The First Ward Falcon Club Tournament begins Friday night at 6 p.m., when Big Daddy’s Lounge takes on Woodstock, ON. Below, Joe Polichetti takes a swing during Dunkirk Men’s Fastpitch League action.
"Surprisingly, it was just as much work putting together a 14-team tournament as it was putting together a 12-team one," tournament coordinator Tim Wdowiasz said.
The four local teams include Big Daddy's Lounge, Dunkirk Fastpitch, Rookies on the Lake and the Lakeside Club. Joining them will be tournament mainstays Erie Budweiser, Woodstock (Ontario), the Wyevale Tribe (Ontario) and Lackawanna Big John's.
"Erie Bud is possibly the favorite, with possibly Lackawanna Big John's as well," Wdowiasz said. "The Wyevale Tribe, they've been here the last few years and they're a strong team.
"Four local teams is normal," Wdowiasz continued. "Bob Krzyzanowicz is playing for Woodstock again. It's his third time and I believe it's (Woodstock's) 23rd straight year coming here. They absolutely love coming to Dunkirk and for other reasons besides softball. They love the atmosphere and the night life."
Newcomers this year will include Loreman's Dynasty (Ausable Falls, N.Y.), the Westerville Capitals (Ohio), Dempsy & Baxter (Erie, Pa.), the Pickering Bulls (Ontario), Jordon Jays (Ontario) and Owen Sound U-21 (Ontario).
"I'm not too sure what caliber of a team they are," Wdowiasz said of Loreman's Dynasty, "but they play in a lot of tournaments up in the Quebec area.
"Dempsy & Baxter is a high-profile modified team that is trying out fastpitch," Wdowiasz continued. "A lot of the players have played fastpitch, but they play top-tier modified ball all over North America. And the Pickering Bulls are out a first-year team. I'm not sure what they bring to the table yet, but we'll find out."
Those expecting to see Andrew Kirkpatrick, the tall lefty hurler from Australia that dominated the field the last two years, will be disappointed, as his team will not be back this year.
"In one sense I was," Wdowiasz said of whether or not he was disappointed that some of the top-tier teams wouldn't be back this year, "but you're basically playing for second place. However, it kind of opened up the door for some of these other teams that aren't in the top five in the world, but are in the top 25. So I think they're looking at that as making (the tournament field) more even, but still giving them good competition leading up to the World Tournament in a couple of weeks."
Despite missing out on talents like Kirkpatrick and Lucas Mata, an Argentinian who pitched for the PA Power last year, Wdowiasz is excited to see, and play against, new teams and players.
"It is definitely exciting to have a few new faces in here, rather than facing off against the same teams again," Wdowiasz said. "Especially if you only have a certain group of players."
With a 14 teams playing this year, that means Sunday's single-elimination will include more teams than normal.
"The top 10 seeds advance to the single-elimination round on Sunday compared to the top eight seeds like we've had the last few years," Wdowiasz said. "So we'll have more teams sticking around on Sunday, which makes it a lot more interesting."
Softball won't be the only attraction at Promenschenkel Stadium this weekend, as Wdowiasz has booked the band DTO to play on Friday night.
"I've had a lot of help from the City of Dunkirk and a few friends have helped me," Wdowiasz said. "It's always fun to have more than just the softball game, so with the food and music and just the family atmosphere with people cooking out and people seeing each other, it's great."
If you can't be at the field for Friday night's opener, you can listen to Dan Palmer's call of the game on WDOE.
Big Daddy's Lounge vs. Woodstock, ON., 6 p.m.
Dunkirk Fastpitch vs. Loreman's Dynasty, 7:45 p.m.
Rookies vs. Big John's, 9:30 p.m.
Westerville vs. Dempsy & Baxter, 9 a.m.
Big Daddy's Lounge vs. Pickering, 10:45 a.m.
Rookies vs. Wyevale Tribe, 12:30 p.m.
Lakeside Club vs. Owen Sound U-21, 2:15, p.m.
Dunkirk Fastpitch vs. Jordon Jays, 4 p.m.
Westerville vs. Owen Sound U-21, 5:45 p.m.
Big John's vs. Jordon Jays, 7 p.m.
School No. 7
Woodstock vs. Pickering, 9 a.m.
Jordon Jays vs. Owen Sound U-21, 10:45 a.m.
Erie Budweiser vs. Woodstock, 12:30 p.m.
Loreman's Dynasty vs. Wyevale Tribe, 2:15 p.m.
Pickering vs. Erie Budweiser, 4 p.m.
Big Daddy's Lounge vs. Erie Budweiser, 5:45 p.m.
Lakeside Club vs. Wyevale Tribe, 9 a.m.
Lakeside Club vs. Loreman's Dynasty, 10:45 a.m.
Dunkirk Fastpitch vs. Dempsy & Baxter, 12:30 p.m.
Westerville vs. Big John's, 2:15 p.m.
Rookies vs. Dempsy & Baxter, 4 p.m.