Their own field of dreams: Babe Ruth tourney kicks off
PITTSFIELD -- For the next week, Pittsfield is the center of the softball universe.
Tuesday was opening day for the Babe Ruth Softball 16-U World Series as the city host the prestigious youth sports tournament for the second time in six years.
From Lodi, Calif., to Plymouth, Mass., 15 teams -- including the host Berkshire Force -- from around the country are seeking to raise the championship trophy at the Doyle Softball Complex, when the seven-day event wraps up Aug. 5.
Many of the coaches, players and parents are visiting the area for the first time, impressed by the hospitality and the playing fields on Benedict Road.
"The city of Pittsfield seems organized and very friendly," said Laurie Caron of Manchester, N.H. "You can tell they put a lot of money into this complex."
Caron's husband, Mike, is a coach with the Granite State Rockers, that includes daughter Charolette. They hoped to return to the Berkshires when the trip isn't softball-centric.
"We'll bring the camper down and definitely spend some family time together," she said.
After six afternoon games that featured Berkshire Force beating West Volusia, Fla., 9-1 behind the stellar pitching of Julia Murphy, the opening ceremony was held under the lights featuring a slide-show introduction of the nearly 150 players and coaches and inspirational words from Verona Gomez, daughter of New York Yankee pitching great Lefty Gomez.
As the teams came onto field No. 1, their photographs were flashed onto the side of the huge water tank beyond the right field fence. Former Berkshire Force and Pittsfield High School softball standout Sarah Rayner gave a rousing rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," followed by remarks from several speakers, including Gomez. She recalled going to spring training to watch her father, who was a teammate of Babe Ruth.
"[Ruth] would be proud of you," Gomez told the young ladies. "With the championship on the line, you're bringing your best to the plate."
Keynote speaker, Williams College softball coach Kris Herman, challenged each player to be a great teammate by going beyond cheerleading on the field and in the dugout.
"Identify what you're good at," she said. "What can you bring to the team to make it better."
Madison Williams immediately brought her A-game as she pitched a no-hitter leading Fern Creek, Ky., to a 14-0 win earlier in the day. Williams and her teammates were chilled by the cooler Berkshire air compared to the more hot and humid Louisville area, but have warmed up to atmosphere around the Doyle Softball Complex.
"The outfield grass is real smooth and everyone is friendly," she said.
"It's really peaceful here," added teammate Madi Yates.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.