As Team USA prepares to go for softball gold in Tokyo, there are hundreds of softball players here in Connecticut looking to bring a title home themselves.
One of the nation’s largest youth softball tournaments takes place right here in Connecticut beginning Tuesday. Games will be played at Windsor’s Fast Pitch Nation.
Over 800 youth softball players will be in the tournament. On Monday, they and their families were at Quassy Amusement Park for opening ceremonies. This as they prepared for a five-day tournament which organizers expect will positively impact the state’s economy.
This event is not only about balls and strikes, but also dollars and cents.
“This event itself has a $1.8 million economic impact for the state of Connecticut and also brings in more than $70,000 in state sales tax,” said Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau President Bob Murdock.
The tournament will draw teams from throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic region. A total of 68 teams are entered, representing 11 different states.
Organizers say over 2,000 overnight hotel rooms have been booked for the week. While games are hosted at Windsor’s Fast Pitch Nation, hotels have been reserved in 11 towns.
One coach, whose team is from Maine, said he expects that each player in this tournament will spend about $1,000 this week for food and hotel rooms. “Ruthless Softball” of Jackson, New Jersey brought four teams to this year’s tournament.
“I added this up just the other day. It’s $55,000 in hotel bills for all the families,” said coach Allan Proske.
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For these players though, the experience is priceless. Their spirits are high and inflated even more as this tournament coincides with their sport being showcased on the world’s largest stage: the Tokyo Olympics.
“I think it’s really cool and I want to be Team USA one day,” said Abby Young of Middletown.
Many of the young girls participating in the PlayFPN Summer Nationals say they are inspired by what’s happening in Japan.
“It gives me like inspiration and motivation to keep going. To get where I want to go. Maybe someday be in the Olympics or get to college," said McKayla Greenwood of East Hampton.
There’s also instruction to be gained. These girls say they are watching and learning.
“I watch the catchers because I’m a catcher and I watch how they block and stuff,” said Young.
Sixty-eight teams from 11 different states will be in this week’s tournament. “Ruthless Softball” was founded by former Olympian Crystl Bustos. Team members there have received instruction from some of the players currently on Team USA and are thrilled to watch them go for gold.
“It feels really empowering knowing that you’ve met that person before and seeing where they’ve come from and how they can help you be like them,” said Summer McKenna of Howell, NJ.