VALDOSTA -- This weekend, it will be "Play Ball!" at Freedom Park. Play a lot of ball.
Freedom Park will host the 10th annual Jason and Nathan Kendrick's Easton/WSL/ASA Tournament Classic. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 85 teams from all over the country will converge on Winnersville to compete in a top-notch slow-pitch softball tournament. Eight of the top 25 teams in the country will be at Freedom Park this weekend.
Competition will occur in five softball divisions. It's a double-elimination tournament, with teams going into the loser's bracket after their first loss. Prizes will be awarded to teams finishing in the top four of each division.
The tournament begins at 7:15 p.m. Friday, goes from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and will run until around 6 p.m. Sunday. There will also be a home run derby Friday night.
In men's Major/A, teams are allowed 15 or nine home runs (depending on which classification), men's B can hit six home runs, men's C can hit three, men's D cannot hit a home run, and the 40-over division, teams may hit three. After that, it's an out. There will be 10 Major/A teams, 13 B teams, and 31 teams in both C and D.
This is one of the biggest adult softball tournaments in the Southeast, and draws some of the best teams, in part because of Jason Kendrick's name. There will be 85 teams competing, and Nathan Kendrick estimates he's had to turn down about 20 more teams who wanted to play.
"We've got 85 teams, but over 100 called and wanted to play," he said. "Cecil (Whitehead, athletic manager for the Valdosta-Lowndes County Recreation, Parks and Community Affairs Department) said they can't host any more than 85, so that's where we cut it off. I had to turn down everyone else."
The Kendricks are pleased that this event has now gone on for 10 years.
"It's our 10th year. We started this with about 22 teams at (now-demolished) Sunset Park. Now we've got 85," Nathan Kendrick said.
Jason Kendrick is one of the country's best slow-pitch softball players, renowned especially for his glovework in the outfield. He was the MVP of 2001 USSSA World Series He and his brother started this tournament 10 years ago to bring good softball to their hometown, and to bring money into the local community.
"We've brought a lot of money into this community, if you consider that we've brought this many teams here, and they'll have to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and shop in our stores," Nathan Kendrick said.
This may be Jason Kendrick's tournament, but Jason himself, and his team, Dan Smith/Backman/Menosse/Easton, cannot play in it.
"I won't let his team and one other team play, because they are so good," Nathan Kendrick said. "His team scored 118 runs in a game recently. Nobody wants to play them. No one wants to play in a game where they'll probably lose 100-20. That's no fun. So we're not letting those two teams play."
Some of the proceeds from the tournament will be donated to charity.
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