Steamboat Springs One hundred and thirty-five slowpitch softball teams are expected to arrive for the opening games of the Triple Crown Tournament today, but mixed among the visitors will be one squad that calls Steamboat home.
"The teams that come to Steamboat for this one are normally pretty serious," softball player Paul Cook said. "But everybody on our team is up for this one."
Cook is a member of the Pioneer Material Dawgs and said that the team will be taking its first swing at playing in this upper-level tournament when it faces Piney Creek Grill of Aurora in today's 8:05 a.m. game on Vanatta. If the local team wins it will advance to the next game in the winner's bracket at 3:40 p.m. on Simillion. A loss means the Dawgs will be playing in the loser's bracket for a chance to make it back to the finals at 6:55 p.m.
"I can't believe it," said player Jim Fader. "Everybody on our team wants to do it and everybody is pretty excited."
Fader, who has played with the Dawgs for the past several years, has also played in his fair share of Fourth of July tournaments in Steamboat Springs.
"I think I've played in just about all of them. If my team wasn't playing, I would go out and find a visiting team that was looking for players," Fader said. "Teams always seem to need a few players at the last minute."
This year, the Dawgs will be up against 56 other teams in the men's E bracket the largest division in the tournament.
While the Dawgs are hoping to win this weekend, Cook said the local men's team is placing the most importance on having a good time.
"We just want to go out there and see what we can do," Cook said.
The challenge for local teams in Steamboat is finding players who will commit to playing, Triple Crown spokesperson Patty Harsch said. She said there has always been a limited number of local teams in this tournament in the past and she thinks it is just difficult for some of the local players to justify taking the day off work to play softball.
"Most of the teams that come to Steamboat are on vacation," Harsch said. "It's no problem for them to commit to a Friday game, because they planned on it as part of their visit."
Fader said it's a little different for the local players who don't want to use a vacation day just to stay in Steamboat.
"When people get off of work here they want to have fun, get away for a while or head to the woods," Fader said. "Friday has always been tough."
In the past, however, many local teams have fared well in the tournament in both the men's class E and men's class D divisions. Most recently Steamboat's Alpine Taxi and Strong Arm Cleaners have posted some top results at the event.
But this year the number of local teams is down to just one the Dawgs.
There are no local teams in men's class C, men's class D, women's upper, women's lower, or the coed divisions. The Dawgs decided to play three weeks ago when one of the players, Brian Culver got the idea, Cook said. Culver even offered to put up the cash to get the team into the tournament, the biggest in the state.
"I think he just wants to see how we can do," Cook said.
The Dawgs also play in the men's adult league on Wednesday nights in Steamboat and are currently tied with another team for second place with a 7-1 record. Two teams, Alpine Taxi and Double Z/All That Jazz have perfect 8-0 records and are tied for the league lead.
"It's just a lot of fun," Fader said of playing in the tournament.
"It's a chance to get to know a lot of new people from out of town and catch up with some of the guys who come back every year. "