Payson Little League All-Star pitcher Karlie Smith is among those fast pitch softball players who would be eligible to play year-round should ASA start a program in Payson as ASA State Commissioner Don Fishel hopes.
If Don Fishel and Cameron Davis are seen dancing the jig in Rumsey Park, the pair’s elation is completely understandable.
The euphoria is because the ASA Junior Olympic Girls Fast Pitch “B” State Championship set to begin today, July 8 and continue July 9-10 in Payson, has drawn a whopping field of 52 teams.
Fishel, a state ASA director from Prescott, and Davis, the Town of Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism director, have long nurtured the concept of holding the big-time championships in Payson, but were never entirely sure how many teams would turn out.
In the planning stages, Davis said he was hoping for 30 teams and the economic boost it would provide local businessmen and women.
Last week, 47 teams had registered, but only half had paid their fees and Fishel was concerned some might decide not to participate.
But lo and behold, when the deadline arrived at 5 p.m. on July 1, the largest field ever in the history of Payson softball had signed up to play.
Whoopee, the softball gods are smiling on the Rim Country!
The tournament is expected to bring between 2,000 to 3,000 visitors to Payson, which will be a huge boost to the town economy.
Of those visitors, many will be unfamiliar with the Rim Country.
“We know from responses that a large percentage of those coming have never been to Payson,” Davis said. “It (the tournament) is going to showcase our community to those (visitors).”
The teams entered represent an array of towns and cities around Arizona including Coolidge, Kingman, Prescott, Mammoth, Tucson, Verde Valley, Safford, Yuma, Bullhead City, Flagstaff and the Valley.
Payson, however, does not have a team entered because ASA girls fast pitch is not played in the Rim Country.
Fishel, a former Town of Payson recreation coordinator, would like to change that, saying bringing ASA to the town would give local softball players the opportunity to play year-round rather than just the summer months as is now the case with Little League softball.
For the tournament, games will be played in five age groups including 10-years-and-under or 10U, also 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U.
The 16U division is the largest, with 13 teams battling for the ASA state championship trophy,
In the tournament format, every team is guaranteed at least three games with play beginning on Friday about 3 p.m. and continuing until 10 p.m.
Play resumes Saturday morning at 7 a.m. and wraps up at 10 p.m.
Sunday’s hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Games will be played at Rumsey Park and Lady Longhorn softball field on the Payson High School campus.
The winners of the Payson tournament are eligible to advance to the B National Championships, which will begin Aug. 3 in Prescott.
For more information about the tournament, call Davis at (928) 474-5242, ext. 249.