Photos by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald
FROM LEFT: Laura Sedlacek swings at a pitch while playing for the Igloo Bar team; Alex McCarthy-Stanley is one of the youngest competitors in the weekly Elks Lodge horse shoe league that takes place each Sunday in Butler Park; Troy Goettsch pitches this past Sunday evening for the team his business, Dew Drop Inn, sponsors as part of the Hot Springs Co-Ed Slowpitch Softball League.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – Sunday afternoons and evenings have become a time of horseshoes and softball for dozens of area residents as they converge on Butler Park in Hot Springs every week.
Ever since the first week of June, the two different activities have been bringing together dozens of men, women and youth to utilize the city’s largest park for some fun, friendly competition.
The Hot Springs Co-Ed Slowpitch Softball League is in its second year of playing games at Butler Park, according to one of the organizers Bill Wainman, but its inaugural season last year featured only two teams. This year the league has grown to five teams – including two from Edgemont – that get together and play a total of three games every Sunday night, at 4:15, 5:15 and 6:15 p.m.
On the other side of the basketball/tennis courts from the softball field at Butler Park you’ll find a different kind of underhand pitching also going on every Sunday night, as usually 10 to 12 different two-person teams battle it out on the city’s four horseshoe pits.
Dusty Bellew, the Exalted Ruler of the Hot Springs Elks Lodge, said the Elks began the weekly horseshoe tournament last summer as yet another way their organization can have a positive impact on their community. He said after learning that the Aberdeen Elks Lodge coordinated a horseshoe league in their city, they decided to give it a shot in Hot Springs.
“And its worked out like gangbusters,” Bellew said this past Sunday, while looking around at all of the teams gathered under the north picnic shelter and taking a break from the hot, summer sun.
Bellew said they begin play every Sunday at 2 p.m., with teams drawing for a position on the double-elimination tournament bracket, which usually ends around 6 p.m. At the end of the season – which will continue through the first weekend in September – a champion will be determined by the duo with the most weekly wins. The league also keeps track of other statistics, like ringers, for additional season-ending awards.
The weekly horseshoe tournament is open to all ages and new teams are always welcome to join at any time, Bellew said.
In the co-ed softball league, Wainman said players must be at least 15-years-old and all teams are required to field six men and four women on the field at all times. If a team is unable to have four females in the field, they play a person short on defense and then the 10th batter in the order is an automatic out on offense. Also, teams are limited to hitting only two home runs more than their opponent per game.
The top team this season thus far is the Igloo Bar team from Edgemont, which entered this past weekend’s games undefeated with a 7-0 record. Other teams include the Dew Drop Inn-sponsored team, which is made up primarily of members of law enforcement; the Clean Hitters/Bodies in Motion team, which has a number of players who are veterans and associated with the Hot Springs VA; Balls Deep, which is a team made up of railroaders, Wainman said; and Lackey Construction, another team from Edgemont.
The regular season lasts nine weeks with each team playing at least one game every Sunday, but since there is an odd-number of teams, a different team plays a double-header each week.
The season will culminate with an end-of-the season tournament the evening of Sunday, July 28, with the seedings based on how well each team does during the regular season.
Wainman, who is one of four board members of the league, said in order to be part of the league, each team had to pay $250 to participate, with the business sponsors usually picking up that fee. Umpires are paid $25 per game to officiate, which is paid for through the team fees. Other league board members include Kyle Maciejewski, Steve McMillin and Tom Johnson.
Wainman said the long-term goal of the league is to eventually be able to purchase lights for the field in order to play later into the evening, and to also expand to have out-of-town teams travel to Hot Springs and compete in the weekly league as well, and also in tournaments.