America’s AOC hosts ANG’s 43rd national softball tourney

The 601st Air and Space Operations Center Honor Guard presented the colors during the opening ceremony of this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament being held at Frank Brown Park, Panama City Beach. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

The 601st Air and Space Operations Center Honor Guard presented the colors during the opening ceremony of this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament being held at Frank Brown Park, Panama City Beach. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

This year's 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament was hosted by the 601st Air and Space Operations Center and took place at Frank Brown Park, Panama City Beach. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

This year's 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament was hosted by the 601st Air and Space Operations Center and took place at Frank Brown Park, Panama City Beach. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

The Command Chief for the Air National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, along with the Command Chief for First Air Force and Air Forces Northern, Chief Master Sgt. William Usry, threw out the opening pitches of this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

The Command Chief for the Air National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, along with the Command Chief for First Air Force and Air Forces Northern, Chief Master Sgt. William Usry, threw out the opening pitches of this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, Command Chief of the Air National Guard, threw out the first pitch of day kicking off this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, Command Chief of the Air National Guard, threw out the first pitch of day kicking off this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

Navy CAPT (Ret.) David Fuhrmann warms up by playing catch will another member of the Florida Air National Guard team at this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

Navy CAPT (Ret.) David Fuhrmann warms up by playing catch will another member of the Florida Air National Guard team at this years 43rd Annual Air National Guard Softball Tournament. (Air Force photo by 1st Lt Jared Scott)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Play is underway in Panama City Beach, Fla., as the 601st Air and Space Operations Center hosts the 43rd annual Air National Guard Softball tournament. 

Sixty teams from around the country are vying for best-of-the-best honors at Frank Brown Park, where play will continue through Saturday. 

Opening ceremonies kicked off yesterday morning with the 601 AOC honor guard placing the colors and opening pitches by Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, and Chief Master Sgt. William Usry, Command Chief of First Air Force and Air Forces Northern. 

Games are running from 8 am to 10 pm daily, with the championship bracket set for Saturday evening. A trophy presentation and closing ceremonies will take place following the final game. 

"This is the 43rd year of the tournament and I can't think of a better place to have it then right here at Panama City Beach," said Master Sgt. Robbie Robinson, 601 AOC member and coordinator of this year's tournament. "These tournaments are a lot of fun, but there is also a lot of hard work that goes into making an event like this happen. All the volunteers that helped with this year's tournament has given a 110%." 

1966 marked the first ANG Softball Tournament held in Fresno, Calif. The tournament started out with only a men's fast pitch division and introduced men's slow pitch in 1969, which quickly surpassed the fast-pitch category in the early 1970's. The last fast pitch ANG tournament games were played in 1999. 

The tournament has grown immensely since its first game in 1966, and now includes 35 +, 45+, women and co-ed divisions. 

"It's an honor for America's AOC to host this year's Air National Guard Softball Tournament," said Col. Randy Spear, 601 AOC Vice Commander. "Every guardsmen that you see here today has had pay his own way to get here, so you know they're very motivated and excited to be here representing their organizations, bases and commands." 

"With our military ethos and commitment to excellence, we look forward to some keen competition this weekend," he said. 

Air National Guard players are allowed time off from work to attend the tournament, but are responsible for all expenses of their trip. Even with rising costs the tournament continues to flourish, this year surging to 60 teams throughout the brackets.