More than 1,200 visitors filled local hotels and on-site camping spaces to play in and witness the 35th annual Snowball Classic slow-pitch softball tournament over the weekend at T-Bar Fields in Denison.
Participants included 35 men’s teams and 25 co-ed teams from all over Texas and several from out of state. The tournament takes place in January each year as a kick off of the spring softball season.
The three day tournament began Friday evening with a home run derby before official game play began later that evening. Games continued through Sunday evening.
Although the weather was mostly sunny and unseasonably warm for January this year, the tournament did see some delays early Saturday morning when storms rolled through the area. While the tournament traditionally will play through almost all adverse conditions, Denison Recreation Manager Andrew Means said the tournament was delayed by about nine hours that first night.
“It delayed it just because the infields were under water,” Means said. “It definitely did not shut us down, but it definitely delayed us.”
Ultimately, the rains delayed the tournament by about nine hours before resuming at about 11 a.m. Saturday morning. In order to make up ground, organizers cut the time limit for the delayed games in half and resumed the normal schedule at about 8 p.m., Means said.
Erik Kanaby was there to compete with the Billy Bob’s Bandits team. He explained in 2016 he played with Steve Whaley on the team called, The Scene. Whaley moved teams and invited Kanaby to come along.
“They’ve been coming out here for years and years,” Kanaby said. “Last year was my first year that they invited me on.”
Brooke Solis, coach for The Crew, a team from Oklahoma, said it was her fifth year coming to the tournament.
“We have a few people that this is their first year,” Solis said. “We’ve been having a great time. For this tournament, it’s the atmosphere. We love being competitive but this is just a fun tournament to go and let loose to.”
The competition was an open style tournament. This means it is a nonsanctioned tournament and therefore anyone is allowed to play with anyone else. There is also an unlimited home runs rule, which Kanaby said is a major draw for the tournament.
“It’s a blast,” Kanaby said. “It’s one of the only tournaments besides the major World Series at Smoky that’s unlimited. It’s fun just to come out here and see where you’re at in getting ready for the upcoming season.”
Kanaby explained Billy Bob’s won the championship last year and the team was looking for a repeat of that this year after an undefeated first two days of competition.
The double-elimination nature of the tournament means games were played both day and night to complete the tournament by Sunday evening. Those that found themselves on the losing side played more often and much later in the evening. Teams played 11 or more times throughout the tournament.
Both Kanaby and Solis made it to the championship round — Kanaby for the Men’s division and Solis for the Co-Ed division. By the end of the tournament, both teams won their respective divisions.
Despite the delays, Means said the tournament was ultimately successful and had few other issues, the largest being a shortage of parking for the larger-than-expected crowds. While normally the tournament brings in about 1,000 visitors to Denison, Means said this year saw between 1,200 and 1,300 people visit the fields.
Means attributed this to a larger number of men’s teams than previous years. While the tournament boasted both men’s and co-ed divisions, most of the men competing in the co-ed also competed in the other division, Means said.
“Ultimately we had little to no injuries, we had few conflicts and it was a very good tournament despite the delays,” he said.