Girls who play ASA softball are the best of the best or “the cream of the crop,” depending on which saying you prefer.
James Ellis, athletic director for Johnson City Parks and Recreation, would choose the latter. He’s been working with the Amateur Softball Association for several years and is now the state commissioner. This softball enthusiast is honored to know that 31 teams of talented girls will come to Winged Deer Park this week to compete in the 2011 USA/ASA Girls 10-Under Class A Fastpitch Softball National Championship.
The 10-and-under ASA teams are the first age group eligible for national level play. It’s something they’ve been preparing for all year long because the atmosphere will be different from anything they’ve ever seen. Teams must qualify for an ASA tournament berth through state and regional play, which can get pretty competitive.
“The catchers and pitchers are more in the game and that makes it exciting,” Ellis said. “It’s not about home runs; there’s a lot of base hits and bunts, plus there’s more focus on defense.”
Pool play will begin Monday at 9 a.m. and wcontinue through Tuesday. Tournament action begins Wednesday at 9 a.m., with the championship scheduled for Saturday.
Besides an increased level of competition, spectators may also be interested to see the individual team styles.
The West Coast has an abundance of ASA teams, each with their own way of play. Eight teams from California are making the trip to Tennessee, including one sponsored by softball legend Natasha Watley, who played shortstop and first base for the 2004 and 2008 USA Olympic softball teams.
Winged Deer Park will host 92 games in six days, but since these youngsters are used to frequent tournament play, don’t expect them to show any signs of fatigue.
“A lot of people will be amazed at what these girls can do,” Ellis said. “As far as entertainment and enjoyment, the fastpitch is better to watch.”
Though he may be a little biased, it’s possible that Eillis knows what he’s talking about. Johnson City has hosted about 15 ASA events prior to this one and has already been chosen to host the 18-and-under version of the tournament next year.
“Anytime you see ASA, you know it’s the ‘cream of the crop,’” he said. “It’s the governing body of softball.”
Daily admission is $10 for adults and $5 for youth and seniors. For instant scores and up-to-date brackets, visit http://JohnsonCityASANationals.com.