The outlook wasn’t brilliant for Team Crossfit on Friday;

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for Team Crossfit on Friday;

The score tied at eleven, half an inning left to play.

When the lead-off man slid safe at third, cloud of dust in tow;

The hometown Shockers were in need of just one batted blow.

The murmurs grew first slowly, than quickened as they spread wide;

A beast of man approached home plate, Team Crossfit, terrified.

The bat seemed like a toothpick, the ball was a spec of dust;

As Pershica raised his bat, the pitcher, well, he cussed.

The three-day, two-night softball marathon-cum-festival known as the Snowball Classic got underway Friday night at Denison’s T-Bar fields. All told, nearly 70 teams from across the Midwest descended on the aged sports facility to match hits and socialize, a tradition now in its 31st year.

Gathered around a roaring campfire on the periphery of the complex, members of Grapevine-based team Simple Jack enjoyed some good-natured ribbing and a few libations while trying to recall how many years they had attended the tournament.

"We’ve been coming for eight years, I think," said Chris Giblin. "It’s one of the best tournaments in Texas. (Worst) fields you’ll ever play on, the worst weather you’ll ever play in, but we come back every year. It’s the same group of guys, we have fun, cook-out, hang-out, and just have a great weekend."

Robert Estorga, the group’s reluctantly-elected spokesman, said the motley crew slept in their cars the first year, eventually expanding their campsite footprint to tents. To ease the suffering of their girlfriends on cold January nights, the group allowed an RV for the first time last year.

"The friendship that we have with all of these guys, we come back every year and every year it gets better and better," said Estorga. It’s one of the funnest tournaments to play in, even though we never do any good. The softball brings you here, but the atmosphere brings you back."

It’s a sentiment that applies even past one’s playing days, it would appear. A few hundred yards away on Field 3, umpire Jeremiah Price said age and an auto accident ended his participation as a player, but the Snowball Tournament’s ambiance is too enjoyable to stay away, he explained.

"I used to come out here and play all the time; oh man, it was just the first kick-off of the season," said Price. "Rain, sleet or snow, it all went down. So to stay a part of it, I umpire — just to come and meet everybody, see ‘em and have a good time."

Denison Athletic Supervisor Jarid Taylor, who serves as the tournament’s director, said the unique nature of T-Bar facility lends itself to the event’s social reputation and general joie de vivre.

"For this tournament, it kind of comes naturally, since we are a smaller, older ballpark that was built a lot earlier than some of the ones they play at," said Taylor. "All the (tournaments) you play at now, the fields are all close, combined together. Everybody’s kind of right there, and they’re just in-and-out, in-and-out. With ours, everybody comes and they stay. They may not play until 4 a.m., but they’re here at 7 p.m. and they stay the whole time."

Despite the sheer number of participants and the tournament’s BYOB status, Denison police officer Isaac Bates said the event usually goes smoothly.

"I just came out here to patrol around, just to come out and make sure nobody’s having fights. But I don’t think we’ll have any, we don’t normally have much."

Robert Eller, whose Denison-based Smokin Aces team earned a victory in the tournament’s opening game, said most teams have a laissez-faire attitude toward the competition that makes for typically smooth sailing.

"We don’t have like a lot of mouthing off like we do in the fall, when every now and then emotions get hot," said Eller. "Around here, everybody likes to have fun and pretty much just play softball; pretty much just for the love of the game."

With the societal costs minimal, there’s no question the Snowball Tournament is a net positive for Denison, said Taylor.

"It impacts the entire city, because (the players are) staying on the west side of town and they have to drive to the east side of town to come over here and play. They’re stopping and spending money everywhere in between."

As he spoke, Taylor’s eyes drifted toward Field 1, where a tight match up had developed in the game between local powerhouse OK Shockers and Paris’ Crossfit team.

"We’ve got a really good match-up that’s going on right now on this field down here," said Taylor. "We just draw names out of a hat when we draw the bracket, and they’re both really, really good teams. It’s a shame they both had to play each other the first round."

Bo Pershica astride home plate, Angus Young filled the night;

The pitch was high, the swing quite true, the ball sailed deep to right.

Unlike those folks in Mudville, the Shockers had no lament

Contacted in the dugout, Bo said, "Love this tournament!"