Despite the name, there was only a slight chill in the air as players from across the region took the to field Saturday afternoon for Denison’s annual Snowball Classic softball tournament. The annual tournament, now in its 34th year, brings together players of all skill levels for a weekend of men’s and coed softball at T-Bar Fields each January.
“We will be playing games here from 9 p.m. until Sunday evening, nonstop,” Denison Recreation Manager Andrew Means said Friday.
Play started Friday evening with the annual home run derby just as the sun began to set. Despite warmer temperatures during the day, players were treated to near freezing conditions throughout the night. The 64-team tournament featured about 10 teams from Texoma with players mixed in with the remaining teams.
“The day has been great, but it got really chilly overnight,” Athletic Supervisor Jarid Taylor said Saturday. “But the guys love it because that ball gets harder and flies farther. There is nothing soft about it.”
Means said teams try to stay out of the loser’s bracket as it will require them to often black back-to-back games throughout the night to survive.
“If you end up in the loser’s column it can easily become game after game after game,” he said, describing it as an Ironman tournament. “You could play four consecutive games in a row.”
Despite the exhaustion, Taylor said the event has always been popular because it is unsanctioned. This allows for players of all skill levels to get together and play a friendly tournament with mixed teams. Friends of different skill levels can play together, he said. For local audiences, this also gives them the chance to see some of the best players in men’s softball.
Softball Player Zane Trammell was among those who came out for the tournament over the weekend. Trammel plays for Team Nightmare in the United States Specialty Sports Association. An injury kept Trammell from competing this year in what would have been his 11th tournament. Despite this injury, he said he was happy to help support the game he loves in what he considers his backyard.
“You’ve got some teams here that fly in the big dogs to help,” he said, pointing out professional players from Ohio and Missouri. “This draws the attention from all your players looking to see some unsanctioned, high-end play.”
Trammell said he has won the snowball tournament once in his ten years competing, but said his teams usually place fourth, overall.
Among those playing Saturday was Matthew Cooper of Tom Bean, who was playing in his second game of the tournament after losing late Friday night. Cooper said he played in college before throwing his arm out early in his college career.
“We got wrecked, but it is what it is,” he said, describing his first game.
In their second game of the tournament, the Colt 45s won 20-13 after 50 minutes. Cooper said he didn’t mind being in the loser’s bracket; they’ve climbed their way out of it befor.
“I just love the sport,” he said. “I’ve been playing this game all my life.”