Queens of the diamond go to bat in Park City
Some 2,000 young women will invade Park City next week and most of them will be armed with metal bats.
Coming back for its fifth-straight year in Park City, the annual Triple Crown Fast Pitch Softball World Series will run from July 7 to July 25 on virtually every baseball field in town. New this year, the tournament will wrap up with the "All-American" all-star game of girls selected by college coaches to play in a televised match on July 25.
The Triple Crown World Series also features regular All-Star games composed of girls selected by coaches and reviewed by Triple Crown staff. Those games take place regularly throughout the three weeks of the camp on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and are often led by college coaches.
Parkites, however, won’t have to go too far to see all of these softball players. Each Monday, as age-grouped tournaments start, the girls will take part in a parade down Main Street beginning at the Wasatch Brew Pub. Most of the players will arrive around 3 p.m. and the actual parade will commence around 6:30 p.m. and continue until 8 p.m. Savvy Parkites should be prepared for heavy traffic in the area at those hours. So many people are expected that Triple Crown has arranged for overflow parking at Park City Mountain Resort and at Deer Valley Resort. Parades will be held on July 7, 14 and 21.
All tournament play begins the morning after each parade promptly at 8 a.m. This year, teams will arrive from all over the United States and even a few from Canada. Triple Crown expects nearly 400 teams from more than 20 states. Next year, Triple Crown plans to make entry into the event open for all potential teams. This year, some teams have had to qualify through earlier competitive play.
Play starts with the under 10 and 12 year-old divisions on July 8 at 8 a.m. All tournament play runs in open pool and single-elimination format. Teams ranked in the top six will get a first-round bye. The day’s play will end at 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and the championship game will take place on Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
The under 14 and under 16 divisions will have similar schedules with some time changes due to the large number of entrants in those tournaments.
For the most part, teams participating in the tournament will pit themselves against unfamiliar opponents with the exception of some teams from California who have previously played other Californian entrants. With so many teams participating, teams will frequently go into play with little knowledge of their competitors.
Among the teams new to the growing competition this year will be a local group of athletes led by Park City High School softball coach Scott Chester. The team, dubbed the Summit SilverStrikers, includes girls from South Summit, North Summit and Park City High Schools. Chester formed the team through connections he has made while coaching in the hopes of giving these players a taste of the excellent competition at the Triple Crown World Series. Many of these athletes are starting varsity players and all of them represent the best of Summit County. Despite the relative youth of the team, Chester says that they will be ready to play when the tournament starts.
The under-16 division should also host the most marquee games with television equipment rolling in to tape the games toward the end of the week. Last year, according to Bill Walters of Triple Crown, nearly 20 million viewers tuned in to watch the syndicated games on a variety of cable networks across the country. "The TV games," as Walters called them, should include the championship game for the under-16 bracket as well as their all-star games.
For the second year, Triple Crown has invited college coaches to participate in these games as a means of helping these young athletes get a head start on college careers. Although Walters could not offer any specific numbers regarding athletes given the opportunity to play in college straight out of the camp, a few have made that transition. Walters points toward their annual tournament in Denver as a prime example of a popular event that launches many talented softballers directly into the university ranks.
The Park City World Series still has a long way to go before it reaches the prestige associated with the Denver event, but Walters said that Park City has so much to offer that the tournament should grow until a natural saturation point is reached. He makes extra efforts to ensure that girls have ample opportunity to get out and enjoy all that Park City has to offer. So, while, Park City may never be able to grow past 500 teams like Denver, Walters is positive that the event will have a good home in Park City for some time.
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Court report: Week of June 22