Midnight Madness Softball Tournament in Henderson, Nevada Experiences Phenomenal Growth

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Aug. 27, 2011

By Mike Stotts

"Hey, honey, I'm heading out to play in a softball tournament tonight…" "That's fine. Should I plan us a late dinner?" "No, that won't be necessary. I'll be home sometime tomorrow morning." "Say, W-H-A-T ?!" (Cue the sounds of flying pans and whizzing knives.) But don't run out and seek a divorce lawyer just quite yet. After all, it's in the name of good clean Sin City fun. (And, no, that's not an oxymoron - nor is it a nefarious, clandestine excuse- it's really true!) Yes, for the 23rd straight year, the City of Henderson, Nevada kicked off its annual Midnight Madness softball tournament, hosting a Co-Rec and Men's division in their July 8 through July 10 marathon event. Or should I more aptly say, record-breaking marathon tournament. A record number of teams have competed the past three years in both divisions. In the last three years, total team growth is astoundingly up over 17 percent. With a team entry fee of $250, this year a combined 92 teams competed in the fast-paced, seven-inning or one-half hour (whichever comes first) NSA sanctioned one-pitch double-elimination style tournament- that's over an 8 percent growth from last year, when 84 teams participated. The Co-Rec division led in total teams fielded, which is usually the case every year, boasting 49 teams this year, and 46 teams for each for the prior two years. However, the most year-to-year team growth is occurring in the Men's division: A total of 43 Men's teams played this year, where only 38 Men's teams participated last year and 30 Men's teams in 2009. So, for the last three years, that's a whopping growth rate of over 30 percent for Men's teams. The guys, apparently, have really taking a keen liking to the venerable sport. And make no mistake about it, the Midnight Madness tournament is more than a locals only Nevada event. Teams from Utah, Arizona and California competed this year; California alone fielded 19 total teams from all over the state, according to Ted Lockamon, recreation supervisor for the City of Henderson. In fact, for the Co-Rec division this year, two out-of-state teams, Bomb Squad, from Ontario, California, and Jaeger Bomber, from Downey, California, not only participated, but advanced to a first and fifth place finish, respectively. All other top five finishers this year in the Co-Rec and Men's Divisions hailed from the Las Vegas Valley. "We're considering having an upper and lower division in each division next year to add to the competitiveness," said Lockamon. Statistics aside, it was one long hard day's night for approximately 1,100 just-can't-get-enough die-hard softball zealots who played tenaciously from dusk to dawn all to get with each at bat only one pitch from one of their teammates, and only one chance to convert it into a hit or miss, fair or foul. No second chances. What is even more remarkable is that many of the players competed in both divisions. And many of their loyal and trusty friends and family who accompanied them did not sleep like logs, but rather toughed it out, cheering and watching to the end. (Who knows, maybe to help pass time they bonded by listening to The Beatles or The Black Eyed Peas? Sorry, Justin.) The Midnight Madness Co-Rec division tournament kicked off with City of Henderson Councilwoman Kathleen Boutin throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday, July 8, at 7 p.m. at the Arroyo Grande Sports Complex. Their championship game – are you sitting down? – wasn't until 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 9. The Bomb Squad, a seasoned tournament team who originated from a YMCA basketball team formed by Corey Wilson and Cal Ford 10 year ago, winning the Midnight Madness tournament in 2006, again proved they have what it takes, capturing the Co-Rec division crown this year with an 8-1 record. It wasn't an easy walk through the park, though. They had to face the pesky Z Squad twice, in the Championship and If Game, winning 12-2 and 8-3, respectively. Bomb Squad co-manager Rere Higgins, a player for Bomb Squad since its inception, attributed her team's win this year to their solid and consistent defensive play. "Our team gave 100 percent all during the tournament. We turned a lot of double plays. Middle was shutting it down and our outfield was fast," said Higgins. Comparing their 2006 tournament win with this year's, Higgins quickly pointed out, "2011 was better because the tournament allowed one runner per gender, allowing injured players to rest." Rounding out the standings for the Co-Rec division: Z Squad finished in second place (6-2), Kapakahi, whose only losses came against Bombsquad, grabbed the third spot (8-2), while Lost Kids locked fourth place (5-2), and Jaeger Bomber finished fifth (7-2). The Men's tournament started on Saturday, July 9 at 7 p.m., with the final game at 9 a.m. Sunday, July 10 at Arroyo Grande. All games were hard-played and exciting, but the battle royale was for top dog honors. Team Diesel, a red-hot tournament team comprised entirely of young up-and-coming players from Las Vegas, many of which were ex-high school teammates, went into the championship game for the Men's division sporting a seven-straight game winning streak. Leading up to their championship game winning streak, the only game they lost was their second game against the team Modified- and that required two extra innings, before succumbing by a score of 13-7. But Team Diesel was on a winning tear before the Midnight Madness Tournament. "Three weeks ago we played and won the USSSA Wall Ball tournament at Big League Dreams in Las Vegas," said Team Diesel coach Aaron Villanueva, who attributed their winning mojo to a strong defense and a potent offense that is starting to coming around. "Then, two weeks ago, we won our NIT berth at Big League Dreams. We were on about a 13-game winning streak." Not bad for a team that's only been playing together for about two months. (By the way, for any team sponsors out there: Team Diesel is actively looking for a sponsor. Any takers?) Team Diesel's opponent in the Men's Division championship game was the equally strong and evenly matched Sin City Stars, who came into the championship game with an unblemished 5-0 record. "We have a solid defense and everybody has been hitting," said Sin City Stars coach Cameron Brown, talking about his first-year tournament team before the game. "We're all good friends and just come out to have fun and play." The strategy is apparently paying off big-time- in June they won their NIT berth at Big League Dreams and prior to that won two other Nevada Men's D tournaments. In the Men's Division championship game the Sin City Stars proved they had just enough oomph left to squeak by an arguably game-weary Team Diesel, 8-6, going on to win the division with an undefeated 6-0 record. Team Diesel finished the Men's tournament in second place (8-2), followed by Big Balls Go Far in third (5-2). D Nutz Crew grabbed fourth (5-2), while Young Guns finished fifth (4-2). First through fourth places in each division shared over a $5,000 awards package including plaques, shirts, and gift cards courtesy of Sportco Sporting Goods. In addition to tournament play, the all-night Midnight Madness Tournament offered a potpourri of other exciting softball and fun activities. On Friday evening, July 8, about 40 children participated in the Musco Mini-Madness Kids Area on one of the baseball fields. It was open for children of the players from five to thirteen years old, designed to provide something fun for them to do between games. Activities this year included face painting, bounce houses, Wiffle ball, sack races, and glow-in-the-dark sticks. And for those wanting to test their home run prowess, there was the ever-popular Home Run Derby on Saturday evening, July 9. Contestants received two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. There were 15 participants in the event. The winner of the event, Scott Lamboria, hit 17 homers and he received a Miken baseball bat for his Herculean effort. Lamboria also had a hit off against professional long ball hitter Denny Crine, in which he lost 11-9. Oh, so close! Zeke Royball finished in second with 17 towering infernos, followed in third place by Casey Cochran with 12. AJ Montano claimed the fourth spot with 11, while Danny Russo had 9 homers to round out the top five finishers of the event, all of whom were from Las Vegas.

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