The 2014 Woody Keyser Memorial Softball Tournament will be held in Westfield on June 7 and 8. This summer will mark the 15th year for the tournament, which is named after a staple in the Westfield community.
Woody contributed significant time to the area's youth through his work as a coach and mentor. He was a beloved member of the community who dedicated his time coaching and sharing his love of the sport with a generation of local kids.
Woody was born in the Philippines and came to the United States with his family at the age of 2. Woody's father, Roy Keyser, was an American Guerilla in World War II in the Philippines and was reunited with his family on the show "This is your Life" on Oct. 21, 1953.
The 2014 Woody Keyser Softball Tournament will be held on June 7 and 8 in Westfield. Proceeds benefit local youth baseball and softball programs. Woody was a staple in the Westfield community and passed away unexpectedly in 1998 while playing the sport he loved.
For 20-plus years, Woody worked at Welch Foods before making a career change to become a corrections officer. He and his wife, Donna, raised three sons (Steve, Michael and Byron) before Woody passed away unexpectedly while playing softball. Woody was only 49 years old when he passed.
"He was a big proponent of staying active and sportsmanship," said Steve Keyser, Woody's son and the tournament's director. "He was very dedicated to keeping kids active and participating in a team environment."
The Woody Keyser Memorial Softball Tournament began in 1999 in Woody's honor. All proceeds from the tournament go to the Woody Keyser Memorial Fund, which donates money each year to local youth baseball and softball programs.
Last year, donations were made to Chautauqua County Babe Ruth baseball, Westfield Babe Ruth softball and Westfield Academy and Central School baseball.
The tournament also contributes to the Woody Keyser Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is presented each year to a graduating baseball or softball player who exhibits hard work, dedication and sportsmanship.
Cameron Wright was awarded the 2013 Woody Keyser Scholarship for his commitment to Westfield baseball.
The tournament began with a 15-team field, but over the years, as participation in the sport has declined, so have the number of teams in the tournament.
"When we first started, the first couple of years, we had about 15 teams," Steve said. "A few years ago we were down to about six teams, but recently we have been getting a lot of help from local teams. We have had guys branch off from teams and start their own, which is very helpful."
Participation has grown again recently and the 2014 tournament will be a 10-team open modified format. Open modified is a middle ground between fast pitch and slow pitch where the pitcher can't windmill and can only bring their arm to ear level.
The tournament draws teams from western New York as well as Pennsylvania, New York City and Staten Island.
Bonnell's Collision from Erie, Pa. won the first six tournaments and have won seven total. Staten Island has produced four winners over the years while Big Daddy's, representing Dunkirk, won the 2013 tournament.
No matter how many teams participate, Steve knows none of it would be possible without the support of local sponsors.
"I would like to thank our sponsors most of all. They are the ones who have kept it going over the years," Steve said. "A lot of them knew my father personally. He coached a lot of their kids and they have never hesitated to help our cause. My father helped them grow up to become men and leaders and the sponsors have definitely returned the favor."
There is a $275 entry fee per team with the top three teams winning prize money and a commemorative T-shirt.
To participate in the 2014 Woody Keyser Memorial Tournament, please contact Tournament Director Steve Keyser at 680-0207. More information is also available at www.leaguelineup.com/thekeyser.