August 5, 2010

Jody Jones Memorial Softball Tourney Packs Johnson Park

Co-ed softball players from across the Tri-state area gathered over the weekend in Memphis to honor the memory of one of their own, putting on one heck of a show in the process. Fifteen teams competed in a three-day tournament held at Johnson Park in Memphis in memory of Jody Jones, who lost his life in a car accident earlier this year.

Proceeds from the team entry fees, concession sales and sponsorship funds were earmarked for Jones’ two daughters, Tori and Cali.

“We easily exceeded our fundraiser goal,” said organizer Jason Middleton.

He noted with more than 150 players and likely twice as many spectators on hand throughout the weekend, the tournament was a huge success.

“By the end of the night Friday, we had already gone through almost everything we had for the whole weekend in the concession stand,” Middleton said. He added that numerous phone calls to local vendors were graciously answered, allowing the food stand to keep the large crowds served.

The tourney got off to a wet start as heavy rains early Friday put the start of the event in jeopardy. But volunteers worked up until game time preparing the diamond for play, and teams graciously played through less than perfect conditions to keep the tournament moving.

“At point’s Friday night it looked more like a pig lot than a ball field, but everyone took it in stride, remembering the real reason we were there,” said Middleton.

Midway through day two, the sun took care of the field, along with many more hours of work from the volunteers. Softball shined after that, as spectators were treated to several quality games, including a marathon extra-inning affair that lasted 14 innings.

The tournament featured a unique format, with men required to use wooden bats. Different softballs were also used for men and women. That insured relatively low scoring games, as home runs were few and far between, compared to normal slow pitch tournaments where aluminum bats make them the norm.

“It was something different,” Middleton said. “I think a lot of the people enjoyed it because it made it more of a softball game than a home run derby.”

That was a case down the stretch as the championship game was a barn-burner, with Team Billings edging out the Pepsi Regulators by a final score of 6-5.

Gray’s Fencing overcame an opening round loss to battle back to claim third place in the tournament.

The tournament was organized by Staci and Jamie Whitaker and Jason and Toni Middleton.

Tori and Cali Jones were on hand all three days, from tossing out the ceremonial first pitch, shagging fly balls during the home run derby and handing out the trophies in a tear-filled final ceremony.

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