First Ward Fastpitch tourney starts today
The 42nd annual First Ward Falcon Club Men’s Fastpitch Tournament begins tonight with a trio of games at Promenschenkel Stadium, beginning at 5:45 p.m., but it will have a decidedly different feel from years past, as there will not be a single team coming down from north of the border to compete.
With the Canadian dollar being as low as it is — it currently sits at 79 cents compared to the US dollar — it is easy to see why they decided to stay back home.
“Very similar situation as last year,” tournament co-director Scott Herdzik said, referring to the struggles Canadian teams faced a year ago. “And a couple of teams had some unfortunate incidents that took place internally with their teams, whether it was players, or like a few other teams that had some problems that they couldn’t create teams to come down. So that was a real big disappointment, but unfortunately some things are out of our control.”
With the Canadian teams missing, the field is a bit smaller than it has been over the last five or six years, as there are only 10 teams competing in the three-day tournament.
“We still have some good, quality teams coming,” Herdzik said. “Erie Budweiser is a perennial powerhouse that’s coming down again, there’s another good, quality team from just outside the western Pennsylvania area that’s coming. And we have a team that’s coming from Boston that’s represented by Chucky Smith, who has been an icon in the sport for a long time.
“So there are still some good, quality opponents coming, they’re just stateside as opposed to coming across the border.”
This is not the first time the field has been this low, nor is it the lowest it has been during the last decade.
“About nine years ago we went down to nine teams and that was with three local teams,” co-tournament director Tim Wdowiasz said. “But within four or five years we were up to 18 teams, so you can bounce back. It’s just a matter of raising some money and upping the prize money. That will help draw more teams and maybe can get a sponsor onboard. That would help with the prize money and effect the number of teams coming.”
Hopefully Wdowiasz is right, and the field expands with at least a couple Canadian squads next year. And Wdowiasz and Herdzik have a couple ideas on how to get them back down stateside.
“We’ve considered a couple of options,” Herdzik noted. “We’ve thought about doing Canadian (dollar) at par, where we match them dollar for dollar, just to continue to bring them down here. We offer a very inexpensive rate at the hotels, because we work with them, and obviously the entertainment value in the area is second to none. So if we can just get them across the border one more time, we hope we’ll be able to open up some opportunities for tournaments down the road.”
In any event, the competition on the field will be competitive, and since just one Dunkirk team has won the tournament over the course of its history, maybe the small field isn’t such a bad thing after all.
“It’s more of a local flavor this year,” Wdowiasz said. “We have three teams from Dunkirk, one from Westfield and one from the (Cattaraugus Indian Reservation). I think you could see one or two local teams definitely placing in the money rounds this year. The talent is watered down a little bit this year without the Canadian pitching, but Sunday does bring in guys. … Guys that aren’t usually here on Saturday, somehow find their way to Dunkirk on Sunday.”
“The format is still the same,” Herdzik noted. “It’s a three-game guarantee, but instead of a 10-team single elimination playoff on Sunday, the top eight teams will advance. So it gives some of the top teams and the local teams, who might not get a chance to compete on Sunday, because of the level of competition and the cliental we usually have, the chance to play into the later rounds.”
As for the crowd, Herdzik hopes the fans keep on coming out to support the players and the charitable cause the tournament is raising money for this year.
“We’re still hoping for a good draw,” Herdzik said. “The weather looks good, and the local community usually really supports this, so we hope that that continues this year as well, regardless of the amount of teams and things like that.
“We have the chicken barbecue on Sunday,” Herdzik added. “The Boys & Girls Club is the recipient of that this year, so all the proceeds go toward them. We like to give back as much as possible, so hopefully people come and support that, as well as the good tournament we look forward to having this weekend.”
Dunkirk Fastpitch I vs. Dunkirk Lakeside, 5:45 p.m.
Dunkirk Fastpitch II vs. Rookies on the Lake, 7:30 p.m.
Iroquois Hitmen vs. Dunkirk Lakeside, 9:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 15
LA Grove vs. East Coast Renegade, 9 a.m.
Dunkirk Fastpitch II vs. East Coast Renegades, 10:45 a.m.
Rookies on the Lake vs. LA Grove, 12:30 p.m.
LA Grove vs. Dunkirk Fastpitch II, 2:15 p.m.
Dunkirk Fastpitch I vs. Seadogs, 4 p.m.
Erie Budweiser vs. MaGill’s Bar, 5:45 p.m.
School No. 7
Dunkirk Lakeside vs. MaGill’s Bar, 9 a.m.
Erie Budweiser vs. Seadogs, 10:45 a.m.
Dunkirk Fastpitch I vs. MaGill’s Bar, 12:30 p.m.
Erie Budweiser vs. Iroquois Hitmen, 2:15 p.m.
Rookies on the Lake vs. East Coast Renegades, 4 p.m.
Iroquois Hitmen vs. Seadogs, 5:45 p.m.
The top eight teams make the single elimination playoff, with games beginning at 9 a.m. at Promeschenkel Stadium and School No. 7. An updated schedule, as well as results from Saturday, will be printed in Sunday’s edition of the OBSERVER.