July 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
74°F

Men’s softball: Huge qualifier coming to Barberton

BARBERTON — The Buckeye Classic, a 2011 Softball Players Association national qualifier, will feature big-time competition in a small-town atmosphere.

The senior tournament is expected to draw 80 teams, up from 24 two years ago and 54 in 2010. The event will be held at the Barberton Sports Complex, with the SPA tournament slated for June 11-12 and the 50-and-over and 55-and-over divisions playing from June 14-18.

“SPA is known for having great senior tournaments and being a player-friendly organization,” co-tournament director Ho Hoffman said. “We also do a lot of promotion with e-mails, phone calls, Christmas cards and such to keep the Buckeye Classic fresh in teams’ minds. That really helps.”

Hoffman and co-director Red Bole agree the Barberton Sports Complex has played a huge role in the event’s success.

“These aren’t family reunion softball players,” Bole said. “They travel across the country to California, Arizona, Florida, Carolina, Texas and a lot of other states.

“I have played at hundreds of softball complexes, and the majority of (players) rate the Barberton Sports Complex and the grounds crew as among the top 10 in the country.”

This year the tournament has added Rittman’s Martin Fritz Memorial Park, Wadsworth’s Memorial Field and Akron’s Cascade Park to the schedule.

Teams are coming from 15 states and Canada. There are divisions ranging from 50-and-over to 75-and-over, with more than 2,000 players expected to participate.

“If we were not limited by our playing field availability, I expect we could probably hit 100 teams,” Bole said. “We have had to turn teams away in the 75s, 70s, 65s and 60s.”

SPA is one of the largest senior softball organizations in the United States, with more than 500 registered teams and nearly 18,000 players.

The organization, located in Mustang, Okla., sponsors more than 50 tournaments each year, with only the SPA Nationals in Dalton, Ga., outdrawing the Buckeye Classic.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.