The two softball tournaments in Waterville and Fairfield this weekend will make two things clear. You’ll have a lot of opportunity to see softball and you’ll have much less of an opportunity to find a hotel in the area.
The Maine Amateur Softball Association 2011 Men’s Class D Slow Pitch State Championship has 10 games tonight, continues with six games at 8 a.m. Saturday, and runs through Sunday. Games will be played in Waterville and Winslow.
The Fairfield Coca-Cola Classic, an invitational tournament, also runs tonight through Sunday, and has teams in four girls divisions: 10-and-under, 12U, 14U and a 16U/18U combined bracket.
Cleveland Brown, director of the Coca-Cola Classic, said he has three teams traveling from Nova Scotia. Two of them will stay through the week to play next weekend in another tournament, the Bulldog II, which features teams from all over New England. Brown said those two teams will be occupying 52 hotel rooms during their stay.
Both the Coca-Cola Classic and the men’s tournament have 42 teams entered. This is in addition to the opening of the Maine International Film Festival, a horse show in Skowhegan and campers’ weekend, when parents visit their children at Maine summer camps.
“The greater Waterville area is going to be the metro hub of the world this weekend,” Brown said half-jokingly.
“We filled up some hotels, I tell ya,” men’s tournament director Jeff Marshall said. “There are teams in Brownie’s tournament that are staying in Bangor. No joke.”
Marshall said Class D is the highest level of men’s slow pitch softball in Maine right now. The rules change slightly with every class, and are clearly designed to eliminate dead time. For instance, every batters starts with a 1-1 count, and a foul ball with two strikes is a strikeout.
There are other rules that would surprise a first-time observer. Want to walk a man intentionally? Just say so and he goes to first base. Hit a home run and don’t feel like running the bases? Just go to first base and that ends the play. Of course, if your team hits two homers in a game, every one after that is an automatic out.
“For someone who has never watched the game, it’s kind of interesting because it looks kind of fluky,” tournament umpire-in-chief Larry Rioux said. “It’s definitely a hitter’s game.”
The teams also have unusual names like Shaved and Rolled, Left Outs and Those Guys. Marshall said about 15 teams play at a level higher than the rest, which are more recreational teams.
“They’ll be good — don’t get me wrong — but we’ve got some really strong teams this year,” Marshall said.
The top handful of teams qualify for the Men’s Class D East National Championship, which will be played this year in Salem, Va.
In the Coca-Cola Classic, Brown was thrilled with the large number of teams, but added these tournaments are usually quite popular.
“They come to central Maine because it seems to be the place to be if you want to play softball,” Brown said. “It’s a vacation. Most of them, they’re coming down Thursday night, early Friday morning, and staying until Sunday night. Half of (the teams) return every single year.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243