Friday night's thunderstorms, coupled with rain during the early part of the afternoon Saturday, put games in jeopardy at the 38th Annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Tournament, but the clouds eventually parted allowing all of the games to be played.
"The field at (Promenschenkel Stadium) was delayed for an hour and a half this morning," Tournament coordinator Tim Wdowiasz said. "So that really threw our games off. We had to move five different games from one field to other fields that had an open (time) slot. It's been the most hectic tournament I've ever ran."
As the games got going however, Wdowiasz, like many in attendance Saturday, got to watch some new faces take to the fields at Promenschenkel Stadium, School No. 7 and Veteran's Field.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Pickering Bulls’ first baseman Zach Bader makes a catch Saturday at Promenschenkel Stadium, during the 38th Annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Tournament. Pikering, which is located in Ontario, Canada, is playing for the first time in the Falcon?Club Tournament.
"It's interesting to see," Wdowiasz said of the teams new to the tournament. "There's some good talent here and it's nice to see some of the younger kids. Some of them are definitely younger teams, and it's refreshing to see."
New this year are teams such as Westerville, Ohio, Pickering, ON., Owen Sound, ON., Loreman's Dynasty out of Ausable Falls, N.Y., Dempsey & Baxter out of Erie, Pa. and the Jordan?Jays from Ontario.
"Probably 10 or 12 years ago I got invited to play with the Erie Budweiser team," Dempsey & Baxter player-coach Brian Dewey said of how he heard of the tournament. "That week they needed a guy, so I came up with them and that's the first time I saw the tournament."
With personal experience accounting for one way teams have heard of the tournament, another is personal invitation.
"Tim, we met him a few years ago in Niagara Falls," Pickering coach Peter Damtsis said. "And he asked us if we'd like to come down, but we never had a chance to get a full team to come down, so this is our first year."
Owen Sound, which is made up of players 21 years old and younger, falls into the same category as Pickering, as coach Jaimie Simpson noted that Wdowiasz has sent out invitations for his team to play in years past.
"The first time I came down to this tournament was in 2004," Simpson said. "I came down with a team from Waterloo (Ontario) and I've been coming down off and on. There are a lot of teams from Ontario that try to make it down, it's a good quality tournament, there are a lot of good teams and everybody is out there to win."
Because Simpson and Dewey had played in past tournaments, they were able to give their players and teammates a scouting report on what to expect not only on the field, but off it as well.
"I told them it's right a long the water," Simpson said of what he told his team about the area. "I told them they've got some nice ball fields, some nice complexes and you're going to find that it's like being back home. Like they never even left Canada."
"The only two tournaments that we normally go to that has this type of atmosphere would be the national tournament - which is in Port Huron (Michigan) this year - and their Fourth of July tournament," Dewey added. "They're a lot like this with big crowds coming to the games and three or four different fields. The atmosphere is a lot like this."
When asked, most players noted that they don't normally compete in front of crowds when they travel to play in various tournaments.
"Other than the Worlds, this is probably the biggest attendance we'll play in front of," Wyevale, ON., team member Scott Thomson said. "It's pretty quite other tournaments we go to. It's usually just (the players) families."
"Crowds aren't usually that big," Pickering coach Dave Northern said of other tournaments his team has played in. "Our guys usually go in five or six tournaments a summer, so they're used to playing tournament ball. But (the crowd) is mostly players and a few wives and girlfriends, so not huge crowds. It definitely shows the interest in the organization and the tournament. And (softball) in general. So it's real positive and good to see."
With the International Softball Congress World Tournament right around the corner, as well as the national modified tournament, team such as Wyevale and Dempsey & Baxter are using the tournament as preparation for the stiff competition they are sure to see.
"Most of them have never played fastpitch and I thought it'd just be good preparation for what we do at the end of the year," Dewey said. "We go to the modified national tournament in Michigan every year and I thought this would be a good test for us to see some good competition and stronger pitching than what we normally see.
"To be honest, I thought coming in I was hoping for a win, two at the most," Dewey continued. "They've hit pretty decent. We scored 20 runs in one game and I was pretty impressed with how the guys adjusted without seeing it before."
Despite this being its first time here, Pickering will be joining teams like Wyevale, Woodstock, Erie Budweiser and Lackawanna's Big John's as teams that will look forward to coming back next year.
"The guys, even (Friday) before we played our first game were saying that this looks pretty good, so put it on the calendar for next year," Northern said. "So we're definitely going to mark it on the calendar and try to arrange to be here next year."
Games continue today at 9 a.m. at Promenschenkel Stadium and School No. 7, as the top 10 teams after the completion of round-robin play advance to the single-elimination round.