Some years, the Rude Dawgs rule. Some years -- like this year -- they don't. But one thing is for sure: the Littleton-based slow-pitch softball team will be in Steamboat Springs for the Triple Crown Fourth of July Mountain Magic tournament.
"We love to come up here and have a good time," Kenny Martinez said.
Martinez has been playing in the annual Fourth of July tournament for 20 years. The tournament began 23 years ago.
On Saturday, fresh off elimination in the Men's D field, the Rude Dawgs were gathered near Adams Field at Howelsen Hill, mourning their defeat or celebrating that they were in Steamboat for several days, depending on the perspective.
"It's good to come up here and get away from Denver," Martinez said.
More than 120 teams, including three with area ties, participated in this weekend's tournament, making it one of the largest summer sporting events staged in Steamboat Springs. The tournament always corresponds with the Fourth of July holiday, prompting most teams to make the softball tournament a family affair, though many on the Rude Dawgs left their families in the Front Range this year.
Most of the teams in this year's field are organized
clubs from Front Range cities, but several Western Slope teams were enjoying some success -- and leisure time -- as well.
Kent Schaneman, a veteran member of Grand Junction's Key HR team, remembers Triple Crown's World Series, now called Summer Nationals, being the one large tournament of the summer in Steamboat. Like Martinez, Schaneman has participated in the traditional softball tournament for nearly two decades.
"It's been within the past five to eight years that the Fourth of July tournament has become popular," Schaneman said. "It brings in more of the Front Range teams."
The Key HR team was playing in the Men's D division, as well. Usually, Schaneman said, most of the team members and their families spend their downtime in the water, but this year they were lounging in the shade.
"My bunch likes to hit the river," he said. "Not this year. I haven't seen any tubers in the water."
Key HR member Deke DeCrow said a common misconception about adult slow-pitch softball is its competitive nature. Although the teams in town this weekend are here to enjoy their time away from work and their respective hometowns, a vast majority of the players aren't here to just go through the motions.
With entrance fees at $350 a team, plus the additional costs of food, lodging and transportation, the players have invested too much financially to want to be eliminated after two games.
On Friday, DeCrow, who played collegiate baseball at Mesa State College, won the Louisville Slugger Longball Contest held during the All-Star Game. He hit seven home runs and walked away with $50 in cash plus other prizes.
BRI's Angel Gonzales was the women's winner.
The Triple Crown tournament wraps up today at Steamboat fields.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org