Bloomington’s event attracts 150 slowpitch teams
By GREG KLEVEN
Sun CURRENT Newspapers
Another edition of the Upper Midwest’s largest adult slowpitch softball tournament is about to take place at Valley View Park in Bloomington.
The 56th annual Virg Ellrich Memorial Fireman’s Tournament gets underway Thursday, July 17, with a pair of all-star games. Double-elimination competition for titles in the seven men’s, women’s and co-rec brackets begin at 6 p.m. Friday, July 18. Action continues at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Championship games get underway at noon on the final day of the Bloomington softball extravaganza.
There will be a 150 Class A through D teams vying for championships in the men’s and women’s Tier I, II and III brackets plus the co-rec division. The three-day tournament attracts softball squads from around the state and Upper Midwest as well as Canada.
Fireman’s tournament officials expect about 20,000 spectators, players and volunteers to converge on Bloomington for games on Valley View, St. Bonaventure and Dred Scott fields. Valley View serves as tournament headquarters.
The tournament kicks off with an all-star doubleheader Thursday at Valley View Park’s Haddox Field. First game at 6 p.m. pits the Bloomington Police against the Bloomington Firemen. Another all-star game at 7:30 p.m. features Fireman’s softball tourney standouts from the past and present.
There will be a home-run derby contest open to all players starting at 4 p.m. Friday.
Longtime Fireman’s Softball Tournament director Jeff Barnes is hoping the weather cooperates for the four-day event.
“Last summer, it got very hot for players and spectators at our tournament,” said Barnes. “We are keeping our fingers crossed concerning this year’s weather conditions.
“But fans and players always seem to enjoy this tournament no matter what the weather brings. We try and create competitive fields in each class and games tend to be close.
“Our tournament has become a summer family tradition for our fans. And all the money we raise from this tournament goes to support local youth groups that sell concessions and provide field maintenance and clean-up crews for us. We have about 300 volunteers helping out each tournament,” added Barnes.
The Bloomington Knights of Columbus is the major sponsor of the Bloomington Fireman’s tourney, which is sanctioned by the American Softball Association.
Barnes is also grateful for the contributions from such local organizations as the Kennedy Choir, Bloomington Retired Firefighters, Kennedy traveling hockey program, Bloomington Gold American Legion baseball team, Kennedy wrestlers, Bloomington Lions Club and Chief’s Towing.
Tournament admission is free. Fans can purchase a multitude of concession items such as corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, nacho chips and cheese, popcorn and cold beverages.
Contact Greg Kleven at [email protected]