America’s AOC hosts ANG’s 43rd national softball tourney
By 1st Lt. Jared Scott, 1st Air Force (AFNORTH)
/ Published August 08, 2008
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.