Top fastpitch teams coming to Erie This Weekend

July 27, 2013

Erie, PA



  and follow us on Twitter for updates from the park: http://twitter.com/AlsFastball/


ORIGINAL STORY by staff reporters GoErie.com

Published: July 21, 2013 12:15 AM EST Updated:  July 21, 2013 1:08 AM EST

Top fastpitch teams coming to Erie

From staff reports, Erie Times-News
Fastpitch softball pitcher, Bill Hillhouse, photographed July 13 at Kosciuszko Park, in Erie. ROB ENGELHARDT//ERIE TIMES-NEWS

Four of the world's elite fastpitch softball teams will collide July 27-28 in the fourth annual Ed McCormick Fastpitch Tournament, to be played at 11th and Hess.

And while four teams might not seem like a lot, it's actually twice as many teams as currently exist in Erie's once-thriving men's City Rec fastpitch softball league.

That's a far cry from the 1980s and '90s, according to Bill Hillhouse, a world-class pitcher who has competed internationally since 1990 and who plays for the New York Gremlins, the world's No. 1-ranked team and one of the clubs locked and loaded for the McCormick Tournament.

Fastpitch softball, Hillhouse said, used to be the game in town.

So many men wanted to play that the city had a morning league for those who worked third shift.

Now, he said, it's a struggle to find 18 players to fill out two teams for the City Rec's informal Tuesday evening fastpitch league.

"People used to go down to the ballpark to watch games on Tuesdays and Thursdays -- that was their form of entertainment," Hillhouse said. "But now they can stay home and watch the Indians on TV every night.

"And it's just not softball that's suffering. Drive by any city park and you don't see kids outside playing. Every sport is suffering. But we don't have the numbers to make up the difference like the other sports have."

Hillhouse, who will be retiring as a competitive player at the end of the season, is one of two local players on the Gremlins' roster; North East's Frank Perez is the other. Hillhouse will not suit up for the McCormick Tournament because he's serving as the tourney director.

But there will be plenty of high-caliber talent from the two-time defending national champion Gremlins and the other three tournament teams -- No. 2-ranked Hill United Chiefs, from Six Nations, Ontario; No. 3-ranked Jarvis Hallman Twins, from Jarvis, Ontario; and No. 4-ranked Pennsylvania Power from Harrisburg.

In addition to the regularly scheduled games, players from all four teams will unite to take on a team of local Special Olympics athletes in a 5 p.m. matchup Saturday.

Although all four tournament entries have their home bases in the U.S., the McCormick event will have a distinct international flavor, as players come from all over the world to compete.

"Everyone just tries to load the best roster they can," Hillhouse said.

The Gremlins, Hillhouse said, boast players from Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as the United States, and other teams have players from Europe and elsewhere.

His softball career has enabled Hillhouse to see a fair amount of the world himself, but that will all end -- at least competitively -- when he throws his final pitch this season.

At 41, he's not particularly old for a fastpitch pitcher. But he's been bothered by injuries and he said he doesn't want to "do the Brett Favre thing and keep coming back."

He acknowledges that he'll miss the competitive aspect.

"It's been a huge part of my life for the overwhelming majority of my life," he said. "To give it up cold turkey really isn't possible. But I have to listen to what my body is telling me, too. And it's telling me it's time."

Hillhouse saluted McCormick, whom he said has been keeping fastpitch alive in Erie for years.

"He's done more for the game than most people could imagine, and he does it without fanfare and doesn't ask for credit," Hillhouse said.

Hillhouse said he will continue to travel the country and do pitching clinics and seminars following his retirement as an active player.

"It'll still be my livelihood, but not as a player," he said. "I owe everything I have to the game -- that's my rationale for trying to give back and do more for the sport."





Ed McCormick Tournament


At 11th and Hess

- 9 a.m.: New York Gremlins vs. Pennsylvania Power
- 11 a.m.: Jarvis Hallman Twins vs. Hill United Chiefs
- 1 p.m.: New York Gremlins vs. Jarvis Hallman Twins
- 3 p.m.: Hill United Chiefs vs. Pennsylvania Power
- 5 p.m.: Special Olympics game
- 6 p.m.: Pennsylvania Power vs. Jarvis Hallman Twins
- 8 p.m.: New York Gremlins vs. Hill United Chiefs.

- Playoff games at 9 a.m.; championship game at 11 a.m.