The inaugural Mike Barr Memorial Coed Softball tournament was a glowing success that organizer Trevor LaHaye expects to serve as a foundation for future events.
“They are going to get bigger and better every year,” he promises. “This was my first tournament and I had only 3-1/2 weeks to plan it.
“When I have more time, they will be better.”
LaHaye, the new town recreation coordinator who replaced Joseph Harris, has been on the job only since Aug. 20.
The tournament was played Oct. 2 on the two Rumsey Park Kiwanis fields and drew 12 teams, seven of which were from Payson. Snowflake, Round Valley and Phoenix were also represented.
The best a Payson team performed was reaching the consolation semifinals, which was done by the squad Raising the Bar. On it were James, Melodi and Justin Deaton as well as former PHS football and baseball star Chad Martin.
Former PUSD teacher Sherri Brennen, now of Phoenix, also traveled to Payson to play on the team.
In the home run derby that was part of the tournament, former Lady Longhorn softball standout Molly Hunt slugged her way to the women’s division championship.
In men’s competition, 16 hitters turned out to the test their skills. Snowflake’s Cory Austin finished first, and Jace Earhart, also of Snowflake, was second.
Ex-PHS quarterback and basketball star Donnie Wilbanks advanced to the final round, but had to settle for second place.
The event raised more than $2,000 for the memorial fund.
The funds, LaHaye said, will be used to “supplement high school students with money to help them pay to play high school sports.”
This school year, pay to play fees at Payson High increased dramatically to $200 for the first sport, $50 for a second sport and a family cap of $400.
Last year, the fee was $60 per sport.
There is a growing mound of evidence, especially in boys’ soccer, that the increased fees could be prohibiting some students from playing.
While the main goal of the tournament was to raise money for the memorial fund, there was another reason almost equally important.
“To celebrate the life of a truly great athlete and friend to many,” LaHaye said.
Barr died July 14 in California from heart failure. He was 25 at the time of his death.
He is remembered as possibly the finest all-around athlete in the history of Payson High School athletics and a fiercely loyal friend and compassionate, gentle giant.
At the time of his death, he stood, 6-feet, 7-inches tall and tipped the scales at almost 300 pounds with very little body fat.
While he starred in basketball and track and field events at PHS, it might be his exploits in football that are remembered best.
In 2003, at the conclusion of his senior season, he was named to both the Class 4A/5A Arizona Coaches Association All-Star football game and to the Class 4A All-State team.
A week earlier, he was named to the Class 4A Conference Grand Canyon All-Region team as a tight end, defensive end and punter.