Midland to host 2010 – enthusiastic about opportunity
By John Thompson
Kimberly, WI holds the distinction of having hosted eleven ISC World Championship tournaments between 1972 and 2008. Quad Cities is right behind at 10 between 1961 and 1973. With the successful hosting of this year’s 2009 event, the Iowa / Illinois border community now has eleven as well.
Of recent, Kitchener, ON has taken the event north of the border on three occasions – 2002-06-07 and made its mark on serving up the right combination of hospitality and efficiencies.
In 2010, it’s Midland, MI, throwing out its first-ever welcome-mat for the 63rd edition of the ISC World Tournament and ISC II Tournament of Champions.
The 2010 invitation from Midland was good news for senior men’s club teams throughout North America.
Michigan has always been a hot-bed for softball, and Midland has fielded a competitive team for many years. The Explorers have always been a highly regarded team, among the top contenders, filling its line-up card with skilled players from the Motor City state and adjacent Ontario, Canada.
Midland has oft been regarded as a community leaning more toward ASA softball, having hosted ASA Nationals seven times between 1977 and 2003, plus the International Softball Federation Worlds in 1996. At one time, Midland was referred to as the “Softball Capital of The World”.
Not far away is Saginaw, MI, host to the 1981 ISC Championships, site of the longest ISC game in history – the 34 inning marathon that is so-often recalled among long-time fans.
But that was then, and this is now. Michigan currently has 100+ ASA affiliated teams, so softball still has wide-spread appeal.
Kyle Beane and Dave Lach are co-chairs for the 2010 Tournament. Both still play competitively for teams competing in the ISC tournaments, are passionate about the game, and excited about next year’s event that will arrive oh-so-quickly.
In response to the Midland’s “ASA” moniker, Beane shared that one of the first things he did when considering bidding for the 2010 tournament, was to contact ASA Past President Pat Humphrey. He responded quickly and positively – “If it’s good for men’s softball, then by all means, go for it.” – which was an informal blessing from the ‘other’ national softball organization.
Beane stated that “We recruited Marty McGuire who sits on our Host Committee. He has wonderful ASA experience, and we’re all pulling together in 2010 in the name of softball.”
Beane is intimately involved as one of several player reps for the ISC, and understands what makes a tournament special for those suiting up on the various teams. As well, he has acquired knowledge and understanding of the needs of the national organization, the challenges of softball as a sport, and the balancing act that must occur between all parties, not the least of which is the Host Committee.
Beane exudes enthusiasm, stating that “the Midland community is totally behind this sporting opportunity. The back-bone of support comes from all sectors. From the Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council, to the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, there is total commitment to this event.”
In describing the 15-18 people on the Host Committee, Beane confirmed that “We certainly have the who’s who of Midland softball on board.”
He continued – “Our biggest immediate challenge is sponsorship. We have waited during the recent economic downturn, and we feel that there’s a better climate now. We’re optimistic that there will be companies and individuals who will support this event.”
Both Beane and Lach beamed at the opportunity to describe their field facilities. Most fastball enthusiasts, and literally thousands of players have visited Emerson Park and competed in Currie Stadium. Beane is of the opinion that “Many teams and players that have competed in Midland know that Currie Stadium, with its setting, history and ascetic beauty, is a gem. There are simply not that many softball stadiums any more – the kind that are made of concrete, where people queue up outside in line with home plate for the right to enter and enjoy the game.”
He continued – “We’re optimistic that fans will come out – no-matter what the number of teams in the ISC Worlds, it is the best quality ball to be played.”
Lach, who is competing in this year’s 2009 Tournament of Champions, shared that “One of our objectives is to provide centralized activity. With the three diamonds in Emerson, and the five fields at Redcoats Complex, we want them to be bustling with activity. Our plans are to integrate the Worlds and the ISC II, so that rather than two distinct facilities, it will be great to have all three fields at Emerson as busy as possible. We envision that 75% of the ISC Worlds will be played – Saturday to Saturday – at Currie Stadium. As well, we hope that 75% of the total games for both events can be played in beautiful Emerson Park.”
To ensure success, in addition to successful solicitation of sponsors, a priority is to mobilize a volunteer base exceeding some 200. Already there is enthusiasm amongst organizations such as the local 12 team softball league, inquiring – ‘how can we get involved?’ There will be no shortage of opportunities with personnel required for parking, ticket talking, games control, etc. etc.
Both Beane and Lach have hands-on experience in hosting tournaments. Beane has been involved with the popular Boulevard Lounge Tournament, running for eight years in Emerson. In neighboring Frankenmuth, Lach has enjoyed a seven year sting with the Peter Schwab Memorial tournament. Both events have become ISC and ISC II.
In addition to the buzz that will be created in having many games centralized, creating a hub-bub of excitement that will magnify and showcase the entire event, other creative aspects are being considered.
The State of Michigan has many skilled ball players and an All-State All-Star game would attract local interest. As well, including regularly scheduled local league games during the week within the complex is sure to boost attendance. Collaborative marketing with the Great Lakes Loons, a Class “A” affiliate of the of Angeles Dodges, will intensify the hype. As well, Beane, a driving force behind the ISC “Special Olympics” game (scheduled for today at 5:00 pm on Diamond #8 at Green Valley) hopes to maintain and expand this popular add-on. As well, both Lach and Beane are optimistic of the return of the Under 19 mini-tournament in 2010.
The Midland Explorers Booster Club is the official host organization of the event. It’s been a key component of softball in Midland, and is officially “on the hook to ensure success. So, it makes sense that an Explorers’ Reunion, with possibility of a golf tournament, would be in the works as well.
Beane confirmed – “The ISC tournament is positive for this area – if there is a dying trend in the sport, we hope that 2010 will reverse that trend as teams and players look forward to the first ever ISC in Midland.”
Any financial proceeds resulting from the event will be plowed back into the community, whether it be facility enhancement, or assistance to worthy organizations such as Special Olympics and Boys and Girls Club.
The importance of a competitive host team is being considered, but the Explorers do not want to stray too far from their roots. Beane, a skilled veteran infielder with the team, states – “Certainly we hope to have the Explorers go deep into the tournament – to Friday at least, or hopefully, Saturday to Saturday. However, we most certainly will maintain our “local” philosophy. We know we already have a good solid program with good solid players.”
In response to why they are personally involved, Lach stated that “I love the game”, but more importantly, Kyle described Dave as one “having special talents – he’s a numbers guy, analytical and he’s what we need.”
In a modest self-description, Kyle confessed to “having a passion for the game. I want to ensure that we keep it going. And, we do know how to run tournaments.”
Confirmed headquarters is the Valley Plaza Resort,Hotels and Convention Centre (www.valleyplazaresort.com
) only 10 minutes from Emerson Park, featuring two hotels (Best Western and Plaza Suites) on one site, complete with the popular 77-site RV park, playgrounds, movie theatres, indoor swimming pools, and much more. It’s a truly complete resort to ensure that the teams and fans enjoy their stay in Midland.
Using existing technology, both Kyle and Dave were enthusiastic about the newly launched website that will truly be “the best website for a World Tournament. It will feature profiles, history, video footage, statistics – a lot of information and images not available elsewhere. It will truly have unique content.”
One of the objectives of the Midland Host Committee is “Leaving a legacy upon the game, both throughout the softball world, and our local community.”