By Heidi Boyum
Neither sleep deprivation nor drinking beer could slow the participants of the 10th annual 48-hour Softball Tournament held last weekend at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field.
Operating on a few hours' sleep accumulated in cramped, parked cars or "quiet" corners of the scorer's booth and concessions stand, diehard softballers from as far away as Bozeman, Missoula and Canada sacrificed precious hours of weekend sleep to play nonstop softball for two days.
Temperatures swept from the lower 40s in the wee hours of morning to mid-80s in the afternoon, yet play was suspended only for the Festival Days Parade and to set up the tournament bracket.
The 14 teams were each guaranteed three games coming into the tournament, with round robin play the first day, finishing with a single elimination tournament on Sunday.
First place went to CMS/Oasis out of Medicine Hat, Alberta. They took home $450. Havre's Patrick Construction/Tire-Rama was second and won $300. Boxcars and Bozeman tied for third and each won $150.
"It's something unique," said tournament co-founder and 10-year participant Dawn Morgan. "There's nothing else like it in the state."
Said Dawn's husband, Gary, "It came about as a fun, stupid idea."
"We won the State B Co-ed Tournament in 1990 without having a co-ed league (in Havre)," said Gary. "This kept our interest and we began trying to get others."
Two years and a lot of work later, the first 48-hour tournament was held in conjunction with Festival Days. Since Havre still didn't have a co-ed league, the majority of the teams were from out of town.
"Everyone thought we were crazy at first," said Dawn. "But when you pull one of those 2:30 a.m. games, it hooks you."
"The Rose-Crown team from Medicine Hat has been here ever since the tournament started," Gary said. "Once teams got hooked, they call to come down every year."
The Morgans, who left Havre in 1994, continued to run the tournament from Helena for a year. They have since decided it's more fun to just come and play and have brought a team up from Helena.
"Its a chance to come back and see everyone and socialize," said Gary. "Brenda Naber was a kid when this all started and now she's up here with a team of her own. Its also great to see the Heath kids growing up and playing now."
With the creation of the Havre co-ed league in 1997, funds were no longer needed to support one traveling team. So the fund-raising tournament was taken over by the Havre Youth Baseball Association, said Dave Peterson, a 10-year tournament veteran. The Sixth Avenue Softball Association was added last year.
"It takes a lot of people to work the tournament," said Cindy Peterson, tournament coordinator for Havre Youth Baseball Cindy Peterson.
Sixth Avenue provides the umpires and is in charge of scheduling. Youth baseball provides workers for the concessions and scorekeeping, said Tammy Boles of the softball association.
Some out-of-town participants park campers and pitch tents across from the field on the hockey rink. Others stay in local motels.
"The people in the neighborhood have been very patient. They're always real good about us camping out," Gary Morgan said.
Many Havre natives return from where they've moved to with teams of their own. Brenda Naber and Christie Fisher came up with a team from Bozeman while Chad Kissee and Shawn Keeley played on a Missoula team.
The $150 entry fee plus the profits from burger and beer sales, less expenses, are split between the two local organizations. The tournament brought in $3,000 to $3,500 last year and the SASA is looking to match or top that this year.
"We had an excellent turnout (Sunday)," said Tammy. "We also got rid of all the burgers and hot dogs, which shows it was a good weekend."
"I believe it's a good thing for Havre," said Dave. "We're bringing six teams in from out of town. Pretty much all but one stayed in hotels. It's a big boost for a weekend where no softball's going on and it brings in some pretty good money for the merchants."