Members of the youth fastpitch teams congregated at Finley Stadium for opening ceremonies of the Amateur Softball Association 12-under national tournament were all about kooky outfits and crazy dance moves during Sunday night's parade of teams. This morning at 9, they'll all be ready to get down to business.
One hundred teams have qualified to compete in the tournament, which will be held at The Summit of Softball complex and Warner Park. After two days of pool play, double-elimination is set to begin Wednesday at 9 a.m. The title is expected to be decided Saturday night at Frost Stadium.
"Everything looks good," local Junior Olympic commissioner and tournament director Kim Swafford said. "There looks like a chance of rain on Wednesday, but that's about it up until then. And it's only going to be in the 80s, which is great for our umpires."
Local personality Dewayne Gass hosted the opening ceremonies, which included brief talks by Hamilton County mayor Jim Coppinger and Chattanooga Sports Committee president Tim Morgan. The featured speaker was Team USA member Amanda Chidester, a former Michigan All-American and two-time Big 10 Player of the Year.
A pizza party and pin-trading session was held after the ceremonies at the First Tennessee Pavilion across from the stadium. Chidester said some of her fondest memories of playing in youth national tournaments was meeting and competing against players from all over the U.S., and said she still has all the pins she gathered through those years.
"My message to them is to have fun and dream big," Chidester said. "Dream big, have a great work ethic and do it. There's nothing that can stop you."
The biggest crowd reaction at the ceremonies came after the a capella rendition of the national anthem by Peyton Cripps, who plays for the Tennessee Fury '01. Other local teams in the tournament are the Chattanooga Force; the Frost Falcons '00 and '01 teams; the Fury '00; the Twisters; and Team Mizuno.
"They're enjoying this," Falcons '00 coach Steve Frost said of his players, whose accomplishments this summer include winning the ASA Hall of Fame tournament in Oklahoma City and a third consecutive state championship. "We've got a good chance. The girls have worked really hard. Defense and keeping their head in the game, that's the biggest things for us."
Admission is $10 per day. Tournament passes may be purchased for $45.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.