Ten years after a tragic accident claimed the life of 3-year-old Gracie Lee Haught, her memory lives on.
Her family made sure of that by organizing annual events that endure as a loving tribute.
One of the biggest is this weekend’s Gracie Lee Haught Softball Classic. The event has grown from eight teams in 2005 to 20 teams the past couple of years. That’s the number participating today and Saturday at Rumsey Park.
“It’s hard to believe we started 10 years ago with eight teams,” said tournament director Charlene Brown. “We are to the point now that we have a waiting list every year. All 20 teams participating this year were here last year.”
The tournament is a boon for the local economy, filling hotel and motel rooms and restaurants.
Brown said the community embraced the idea of a tournament in Gracie’s honor from the start.
“It has been a rewarding adventure for me,” she said. “I have to thank former Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind for fully supporting me when I first brought this idea to him months after we lost sweet little Gracie Lee Haught.
“I am so thankful for all the volunteers who have given of their time to make this softball tournament a success.”
She said preparing for the tournament each year is stressful. “I am tired and always a nervous wreck until the first pitch is thrown on Friday morning,” she said.
The weather is expected to be wonderful for this year’s event.
“We have played through rain, snow and high winds over 10 years,” Brown said. “The teams always come back. It looks like the 10th is going to have the most beautiful weather we have ever seen.”
Payson is the defending tournament champion. The Longhorns had never won a tournament of any kind in their then-26-year history prior to beating Goodyear Estrella Foothills in last year’s title game.
Pool play in five, four-team pools is today. See Tuesday’s Roundup for that schedule. The seeding for bracket play is based on the best head-to-head record and the fewest runs allowed.
The top 10 teams advance to the championship bracket, with two games at 8:30 a.m. at Rumsey Park and the championship game set for 5:30 p.m. on the high school varsity softball field. The other 10 teams go into the consolation bracket, which kicks off with a pair of 8:30 a.m. games Saturday at the Kiwanis Fields near Rumsey Park and concludes with the consolation championships game at 5:30 p.m. at Rumsey 3.