Nearly 100 teams vie for Triple Crown World Series title in Park City
Wednesday was a tournament day for the 12U and 10U teams participating in the Triple Crown Fast Pitch Softball World Series in Summit County. According to organizer Katrina Maestas, the competition drew an estimated 3,500 people to the area.
Close to 100 teams came from around the state and country as part of a roving community of clubs in search of good competition and another chance to play the sport they love.
Twelve hours to Park City
According to Ladell Shuler, the SoCal Sandlots, a 12U team based out of Northridge, California, travel to about two or three tournaments a month.
“And we play every weekend,” he said. “Softball is a big thing in Southern California, especially our little area.”
Coming to Park City, where the team was playing at the Park City Sports Complex, was the farthest the SoCal Sandlots had traveled this season, but so far the 12-hour drive was worth it. Shuler watched as his daughter, Hailey, threw another pitch – one that the group of parents on the sidelines all hoped would be the last of the game.
“Big moment,” Shuler said. “We need one more out to win this game, then we will be 3-0 so far.”
The Sandlots’ spotless record hasn’t come easy. Shuler said his daughter has invested a lot of time in the sport, and by association, so has he.
“A lot of practice, Monday through Friday, sometimes on Saturdays; traveling all over the place,” he said. “It’s a big thing. It’s a real big thing, you know?”
When asked if he himself likes the game, Shuler’s answer was roundabout. What he did say was that softball is a quick game; quicker than baseball. The bases are much closer together, the batting tactics are different and often involve shorter hits, and the mound is closer to home.
“The only thing that changes, from these (12U) girls to high school, is the mound goes back three feet,” he said. “The bases are still the same distance as college.”
As he explained the tactics, a pop fly leapt over the backstop and toward another field, with parents, including Shuler, warning passersby with a call of “Heads up!” Before returning his attention to the game at hand.
“So, right now, she throws 55 miles an hour,” Shuler said of Hailey. “Some of the college girls throw, like, 62; 63, and she still has five more years before she graduates from high school. She’s in seventh grade.”
The day before, the family had gone to the Utah Olympic Park and rode the zip line, and Shuler said he wanted to come back and see Park City in winter.
“I can imagine how it looks when the snow is laid down; it’s a beautiful place.”
If things work out well for the Sandlots, the Shulers would leave on Sunday morning – only the finalists would play on Saturday.
His daughter struck out the next batter, giving the Sandlots that 3-0 record.
“Ballgame, here we go,” Shuler said. “Every parent out here is hoping for the W; it’s always a good feeling when you can pull off the W.”
‘It never stops’
Just behind the parents of the SoCal Sandlots, the team American Pastime, also from Southern California, waited for their chance at winning. The team was 2-0 in the tournament, and hadn’t played a game yet that day. During the lull, two players approached another and gave her a cake and a small collection of gifts: Karsen McDonald was celebrating her 13th birthday while on the road.
While the team doesn’t travel that much and, like the Sandlots, the Triple Crown was its farthest tournament, McDonald said it would be unlikely her birthday would fall on a day when she wasn’t playing.
“It’s always go, go, go,” she said of the season. “It never stops.”
Not that she’s complaining. She said she was happy her birthday fell on a traveling day, because it meant she would spend it with her teammates.
“I love softball; it’s another world for me,” she said. “It’s a passion, something I love to do in my free time.”
Her mother, Alyson, said it also allowed Karsen to spend her birthday with her extended family for the first time in eight years. Karsen’s paternal grandparents and two of her cousins came down from Idaho to meet the McDonalds in Park City.
But Alyson said the family would not be getting together for dinner that night.
“We’ll be out here late,” she said. Their last game was scheduled to start at 6:40 p.m., but rain had already pushed the games back a half hour, and it was starting to rain again. Soon, fat raindrops forced Alyson to search through the wagon of supplies she carts to each game, rummaging through what she described as her “Mary Poppins bag” – named so “because pretty much everything you need, I have it in there.”
“I have Band-Aids; I got water; I have a screwdrivers for helmets in case they need to fix their facemasks,” Alyson said. “I have just about everything (to help players) from upset stomachs to bug bites, to sunscreen and umbrellas.”
Though she said she and the American Passtime hadn’t even seen rain in six or seven months, she quickly found a poncho and put it on.
It certainly didn’t look like a good day to celebrate turning 13, but that wouldn’t matter to Karsen, so long as she got to play.
Was there something Karsen was hoping for on her birthday?
“Just, like, to win,” she said, then, considered her answer further.
“And, yeah, just to win.”
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