BY DAVID PEDERSEN
For 30 years the Dudley Budweiser Classic-Sponsored by Easton National Invitational Men’s Major softball tournament has generated some memorable game action. This year the event will remember those who sacrificed in military action.
The 34-team tournament runs June 15-17 at Centennial Park behind the Brooklyn Center Community Center at Highway 694 and Shingle Creek Parkway. Action starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday, plus 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with the championship game scheduled for late Sunday morning.
A special flag ceremony will take place at 6:45 p.m. Friday, honoring representatives of area veteran organizations.
The recognition is spearheaded by a new team in the softball conference called 4thefallen, made up of members of the Armed Forces softball community. The non-profit organization empowers families of the fallen and wounded service members in their transition.
"Players have united for the sole purpose of providing for the needs of wounded warriors and their families," said Jermaine Flythe, a player on the team from Arizona. "It is our way of giving back to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us."
The tournament is a stop for Conference USSSA, including the only four teams in the country classified as Men’s Major, the top level. The top Minnesota teams have a chance to be competitive because of the home run limits in place.
Minnesota teams are from Brooklyn Center (2), Brooklyn Park, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Blaine, Coon Rapids, Dayton, Maple Grove, Champlin, Shakopee, Little Canada, Oakdale, Duluth and Minneapolis (2).
One of the Major teams competing in Brooklyn Center is Nordkap/Desert Falls/Easton, which has Minnesota ties.
Rick Olson from Coon Rapids owns Nordkap Construction based in Ham Lake and is the team’s assistant manager. His sons Josh and Bob both play on the first-year team that was ranked as high as No. 1 in the country until getting passed over at the recent tournament in Tennessee.
Olson had sponsored a Class B team from Minnesota before recruiting some of the top players from around the country, four coming from the former GTL Major team. One is DJ Genter, a former two-time most valuable player at the Dudley.
The other three teams classified as Major because of the talent base are defending Dudley and USSSA World Series champion Resmondo/Specialty Tank/Worth from Florida, Laser Vision/Annihilation/Supreme/Easton based in New York and Team Combat based in Washington state.
Dale Weiser, who covers the national softball scene for his website called www.Softballcenter.com, said the national conference has more competitive teams this season. Six different teams captured tournament titles after the first eight events.
Minnesota natives playing for major teams include Park Center grad Scott Striebel with Resmondo, Geno Buck with Laser Vision, Scott Brown with Team Combat and Anthony Dress with Nordkap/Desert Falls.
Tournament directors are Warren Bellm and Joel Ericksen. Bellm has been part of all 30 events and said the tournament is getting more difficult to do because of travel expense and less funding.
Games will also be played at Evergreen Park, 72nd and Bryant Ave. N, in Brooklyn Center and at Becker Park in Crystal, County Road 81 and Bass Lake Road. Admission is $3 per day.
The softballcenter website will provide daily blogs and videos, plus broadcast the final games. Brackets can be found at www.cityofbrooklyncenter.org. Tourney information can be found on www.usssa.com.
To learn how to support the non-profit veterans softball team and cause go to www.4thefallen.org.
Proceeds from the Dudley go to the Brooklyn Center Crime Prevention Fund.