The Ninth Annual Gracie Haught Classic ranks as one of the most memorable and emotional softball tournaments ever played in Payson.
Highlighted by the Lady Horns’ dramatic come-from-behind 7-5 win over Estrella Foothills in the championship game, the tournament also inspired other stirring moments like the award of the “Spirit of Gracie” trophy to the Estrella Foothills High School for the team’s outstanding display of good sportsmanship and spirit.
Scorekeepers, umpires and officials voted for the award winner.
For the tournament, Wolves players donned pink game shirts in memory of Gracie, who died on Feb. 6, 2004 at 3 years of age in a tragic accident in Star Valley.
Pink was Gracie’s favorite color.
During a Friday evening “8th Inning” celebration for all the players and coaches in the tournament, Estrella Foothills gave Gracie’s mother, Bobbie Jo, one of their pink Wolves game shirts.
Bobbie Jo was a junior varsity coach at the time of Gracie’s death and her daughter was a frequent visitor at practices and games.
Classic Tournament Director Charlene Brown was among those lauding Estrella for their performance in Payson saying, “They are a class act, very deserving of the award.”
The emotions of most all who attended the 8th Inning or games were touched again when Brown announced the tournament was being dedicated to former Winslow High School softball coach Becky Burris who died a year ago in an auto accident.
For the Classic, Brown chose the motto “Do what you do best” which was the slogan Burris chose to have inscribed on WHS team shirts.
Some at the tournament said they remembered Burris outside of softball because she once attended Payson schools before her family moved to Winslow.
While many in the tournament sometimes wore their emotions on their sleeves, moments of unbridled hilarity also marked the 8th Inning celebration when a spontaneous “Harlem Shake” dance broke out on the gym floor.
“It was hilarious, one of the funniest things I’ve seen,” said Brown. The eccentric dance, which involves shaking of the upper body torso and shoulders, turned even more side-splitting when the players coaxed coaches to join them on the dance floor.
One coach, probably growing frustrated with the Shake, decided to turn back the dance clock a decade or so with “The Worm” — a type of break dancing that has its roots in the 1980s.
Needless to say, very few of the teenage players had actually seen The Worm performed — especially by normally stoic coaches.
As the 8th Inning wrapped up with ice cream, cake and door prizes, Brown summed up the event as a grand show of good will and camaraderie among opposing players who often don’t have the opportunity to get to know one another off the playing field.