National softball tournament starts in Crown Point
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent July 21, 2014 10:12PM
in Crown Point on July 21, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 23, 2014 6:10AM
CROWN POINT — Thousands of girls and their families descended on the city this week for the start of the National Softball Association’s Class B Fastpitch Girls World Series.
This year, 236 teams in age groups from 8 and under to 18 and under traveled from around the Midwest and as far away as New York to play in the week-long tournament on fields in Crown Point, Michigan City, LaPorte, Cedar Lake, Highland, Hidden Lake, Hobart, Munster and Cedar Lake.
The event launched with a parade and block party on Crown Point’s historic downtown square. All 236 teams took part in the parade, chanting spirit cheers and tossing candy to youngsters in the crowd.
“It’s awesome,” said Carson Wheeler, 10, of Mahomet, Illinois, who was standing on the sidelines watching and cheering for her sister Delaney, 12, who’s playing for the Central Illinois Diamonds.
Their dad, Jeff Wheeler, said he was amazed by the size of the event and how all the local communities came together to pull it off.
“I think it’s a great event. It’s a great opportunity for these kids,” Wheeler said, adding that this is the first time that Delaney has played in the World Series.
He said the family plans to take in some local attractions, such as Deep River Waterpark and shopping at Southlake Mall, while they are here.
“There are a lot of fun things to do. Overall, it has been a nice experience, and we haven’t even played a game yet,” Wheeler said.
Several local teams are in the tournament, including the Crown Point Bulldogs Red team. Hannah James, 12, and Elisha James, 8, of Crown Point, were decked out in red from head to toe, including red-painted hair, to show support for their sister Leah, 9.
Leah is the Bulldogs pitcher, her mom and dad, Holly and Tom James, said. They, too, were surprised by the amount of people involved in Monday’s parade and kick-off.
“Chaos,” Holly James said in describing the scene. “It’s awesome. It reminds me of a softball Mardi Gras.”
Jenny Burgess, Crown Point’s parks director, said the NSA tournament, which last was in the region in 2012, is the type of event the city was hoping to attract when it constructed the Sportsplex athletic complex. Work just finished on the Legacy Fields softball area at the complex.
“This was the idea behind the Sportsplex. Not only does it bring in teams to compete at a high level, it allows our local kids to compete at that high level,” Burgess said.