Athletes from across the country will converge on Denison this weekend for the city’s annual Snowball Classic slow-pitch softball tournament. The annual event, now in its 35th year, brings the crack of the bat to Denison’s T-Bar Fields each January, ahead of the normal softball and baseball seasons.


Recreation Manager Andrew Means said about 1,000 visitors are expected to come to Denison for the weekend. He said many of the city’s hotels are already booked and the city created more camping space at the venue in anticipation of the crowds. Means said this traffic of visitors into the city is always the biggest impact and benefit to the community that the tournament brings.


For this year’s tournament, 60 teams — including 35 men’s and 25 co-ed teams from as far away as Oklahoma and Kansas — are registered to participate in the three-day tournament. Means said the teams from out of state are flying in professional players from across the country, though most of the teams are from around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.


The annual tournament will start Friday evening with the annual home run derby before the tournament bracket begins later that night. Competition will play continuously from about 9 p.m. through Sunday afternoon regardless of weather or temperature, Means said.


“We’ve played through heavy rains, light rains, snow and freezing temperatures,” he said. “The one thing that stalled the tournament several years ago was when we had fog roll in that was so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”


In addition to the registered participants, Means said there are another 15 to 20 teams that are signed up on a waiting list, making this the biggest tournament of its kind in the city.


Means said the tournament often is seen by softball players as an early start to the upcoming season. To many players, it is this unofficial quality that makes the tournament popular, Means said.


“I think the biggest appeal, No. 1, is it is an open tournament, non-sanctioned,” he said. “Anyone can play with anybody.”


Beyond giving players the ability to play with friends they would not otherwise be able to, Means said the unlimited home runs rule, which can run into the 30s or higher in any given game, are also a major attraction for players.


Due to the double-elimination nature of the tournament, Means said games will be played throughout the day and night in order to complete the competition by Sunday evening. This makes it all the more valuable to stay in the winning column to avoid the late games, he said.


“We will play around the clock until Sunday afternoon,” Means said, describing it as almost iron man in nature, with teams playing 11 or more games in a tournament. “If you are in the losers bracket, you are going to so many more games compared to the winner’s bracket.”