Joshua Lyon wants to see softball grow in Rim Country.
And he’s alarmed by the high suicide rate among this nation’s military veterans and is motivated to help area veterans struggling with a variety of combat-related issues.
A veteran himself, the Payson resident came up with a plan to put on a softball tournament to benefit Rim Country vets every year and organized the Home Runs For Vets Tournament in 2017.
That went well, so he started the nonprofit Home Runs For Vets and started a series of three benefit tournaments in 2018.
This year’s Third Annual Home Runs For Vets Series kicks off this weekend with the Third Annual Payson Invitational. Thirty-five teams have signed up for the Saturday-Sunday tournament with games at four Rumsey Park fields.
The tournament sold out in 48 hours. The second event in the series, the Beat the Heat tournament set for Aug. 1-2 sold all 34 team slots in 24 hours. Openings remain for the Sept. 19-20 Home Runs For Vets Tournament.
They matched the 34 teams that participated in last year’s Payson Invitational and added a 35th team.
“This is the most teams we’ve had,” Lyon said. “It surprised us because it sold out in about a week or two last year and it was the only tournament we sold out.”
The enthusiasm for both softball and the cause is encouraging for Lyon, who says they’ve raised $7,000 for local vets, so far.
All proceeds above tournament expenses will be donated to support local military veterans and suicide awareness and prevention.
The tournaments have raised money for the Merritt Center in Star Valley, the Marine Corps League in Payson and the Payson Honor Guard.
Lyon looked at the alarming suicide rate among veterans and wanted to help in some way. He said softball offers veterans something that medication doesn’t.
“The suicide rate, that is a huge part of it,” Lyon said of his reasons for starting the series. “I was working for the VA Clinic (in Payson) and I felt that just referring people to a psychiatrist or a psychologist or even some of the local resources; I just felt we needed another option. And softball has always given me a place of camaraderie, sportsmanship and friendship. I felt that we needed more softball in town. Then, at the same time, I didn’t want to keep the money.”
Teams want to compete in quality tournaments for a good cause and that’s what Lyon is offering.
“The draw for us is, we’re a nonprofit so we do benefit tournaments and if people are going to pay money they want it to go to a good cause,” Lyon said. “And we’re different from most benefit tournaments because we have paid umpires. So, it’s more of a professionally run tournament. It’s as close as we can get to being a professional organization and still be a nonprofit tournament. Other benefits have four or five players from teams rotating as umpires.”
Money for the umps comes from the entry fees teams pay.
The Town of Payson has waived the field fees for the tournament organizers this year, but they still have to pay for use of the lights, alcohol fees and field prep fees.
The rest goes to the veterans.
“It’s good to mention that the town is trying to support us and what we’re trying to do,” Lyon said. “But I also think it’s important to note that they’re not just freely giving us all the labor and just free stuff.”
This tournament is different than the other two in that organizers encourage teams to dress with a certain theme in mind.
“Two of our local teams are dressing up in a patriotic theme, like red, white and blue,” Lyon said. “We really embody what softball used to be, which is playing in a tournament and having a good time.”
Lyon started Home Runs For Vets with the help of his brother, Anthony Munson, a U.S. Navy vet, and their mother.
Joshua spent 20 years in the U.S. Army and is now a physician assistant and works at VA facilities in the region.
COVID-19 measuresOrganizers are taking steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the tournament.
Among the measures are: encouraging those in the dugouts and spectators to wear facemasks and adding a hand-washing station to each of the four fields.
Every player will get their temperature scanned before their team plays its first game.
Games begin at 8 a.m. both days on Rumsey 1, Rumsey 2, and Randy Johnson Hall of Fame Field.
For more information, contact Joshua Lyon at 509-999-3556 or email HR4Vets@yahoo.com or visit the Home Runs For Vets Facebook page.