A Weekend of Softball, Sweat and Shenanigans

The 37th Annual Sam McQuade Sr./Budweiser Charity Softball Tournament was played last weekend in Bismarck-Mandan. For those unfamiliar with this exciting event, it is a men’s and women’s softball tournament that draws around 400 teams from the United States and Canada. It has even featured games between soldiers in Iraq. The tournament is played on 40 diamonds in six complexes and more than 90 umpires are needed for this three-day extravaganza. For many players and the 15,000 or so fans that follow their team, the McQuade tournament is the highlight of the summer. Being from Bismarck definitely has its advantages during the McQuade. You can sleep in your own bed as opposed to a hotel or camper. More friends and family usually come out to watch and there is always someone you know playing. This being my second McQuade, I was very excited to get out there and play again. My first year was 2010 when I was a pick-up player for a friend’s team. I was a little intimidated at first because I didn’t know a lot of the guys. Eventually my nerves settled and I just played the game like I knew how. That year, surprisingly, we ended up winning the championship in our division (See picture above). It was an awesome experience to win a McQuade championship my first year. I must have done pretty well because the team I played on even asked me to be a permanent part of their squad the next two years! This year we were out to defend our title despite a two-year layoff. Flooding in Bismarck last year caused tournament officials to limit divisions and teams, leaving us out.  I was a little nervous in our tournament opener this year because it was only my second year playing in the McQuade and I was now a permanent member of the reigning champs. So there were high expectations to say the least. We played phenomenal our first game. Everyone hit the ball really well and we made great defensive plays too! We ended up 10-running our opponent after only five innings. After the game, our whole team got together and tailgated (that’s where some of the shenanigans come in). If you know softball, you know that tailgating is HUGE, especially at the McQuade. We also went to the main complex to watch Team USA play and to watch the annual home run derby. We had heard the team we were playing in our next game on Saturday was pretty good, so we had to be ready. We started a little shaky and trailed 10-3 after three innings. But we turned the tables in the fourth after escaping a tight spot. Our opponent had one of its best batters up and I decided to back up a little bit in center to give myself a little more range. On the first pitch, the batter crushed the ball my way. I raced back towards the fence and noticed I was running out of room. But I kept running, extending my arm to brace for the impact while reaching over the fence, jumping and catching the ball! I could not believe it when I looked in my glove and saw the ball. I had just robbed the batter of a grand slam. Moments later, I realized that the base-runner who had been on third base had run home without tagging up. So I quickly threw the ball to third to double up the runner. We used the momentum and excitement from my play as a game-changer. Our first six batters got on base and eventually scored. We ended up scoring nine runs that inning to go ahead 12-10. We shut out our opponent the rest of the way to win 17-10. To celebrate our invigorating win, we of course, grilled and tailgated in the parking lot! We began Sunday three games from a title. We started our quest for another title at 8:40 (early for a softball game, but this is the McQuade) with an intense see-saw game that was tied 12-12 heading into the last inning. We went up 13-12 but had to hold on in the last half of the seventh. But our dreams came crashing down with two outs. The third batter of the inning got on with a hit down the left field foul line. The next batter sent us packing with a two-run homer. Although it was a disappointing day, I still had a lot of fun last weekend at the McQuade tournament! It was fun seeing the different teams from around the country and playing in the nice weather. The McQuade tournament was certainly a weekend to remember. We are not defending champs but I will be back next year to shoot for another first-place finish!