Local tournament swings into action
summit daily news
summit county, CO Colorado
FRISCO ” This weekend, people will gather on the Frisco peninsula, drink beer, catch rays and watch some softball. But a passerby shouldn’t be fooled by the Budweiser and sun screen because this isn’t just another day at the beach. It’s the scene of one of the premier softball tournaments in the state.
Starting today, the annual Spider Stephens Softball Tournament will be played in the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area and at the Blue River Park in Silverthorne.
“It is really a mixture of serious play and a fun time, which is nice for everyone,” tournament coordinator Steve “Smoke” Wilkins said. “But once you get people out there playing softball, they are going to get competitive, no matter what.”
This year’s tournament is set to be the largest yet with its 51-team lineup bettering the previous record of 50 set two years ago.
The double-elimination tournament fields five divisions: Men’s upper, men’s lower, mixed upper, mixed lower and women’s open.
This is a far cry from the tournament’s beginnings over 30 years ago.
“I can’t remember exactly the year that it started,” said Wilkins, who has run the tournament the past eight years. “It was named after the guy who was heavily involved in getting the (Frisco peninsula) field built. He had died at a young age and he was actually the one who started the tournament.”
Wilkins said that Stephens began the tournament as a way for his family to raise money. Once his family no longer needed the income from the event, it was kept alive to benefit the local softball leagues.
Recently, the tournament, and its field, has grown exponentially.
“We actually switched from [the American Softball Association] to USSSA sanctioning, which has given us a much bigger number of teams that are coming up to play,” Wilkins said.
The difference between the two designations is that the USSSA allows teams to earn points towards state and national rankings, thus creating more interest in the tournament.
Wildernest-resident Ken Motes, 49, has played in the Spider Stephens “at least six or seven” times in the past.
“Years ago, this was really a true locals tournament,” Motes said. “Which was fun, but since we changed from ASA to USSSA, it has drawn from all over. It is really the highlight of the year for softball in the area. It is the best tournament that we have, hands down. You have people from all over the state playing in it.”
According to Wilkins, “about” 90 percent of the tournament’s teams are from in and around the Denver metro-area. However, the Spider Stephens hasn’t lost its local flavor as there are four teams that sport full Summit County rosters.
Motes’ team, named for his local business Ken Motes Window Cleaners, is one of them. His team, along with the other three Summit squads, is competing in the men’s lower division.
“I competed one time in the upper division, but those guys were so big and strong that one time was enough for me,” Motes said. “We would like to win, and there is a good chance that we could, but that isn’t the bottom line in this. What’s most important is that we have a good time.”
With the festivities of the weekend, it appears that most participants will find a way to enjoy themselves.
“When you aren’t playing, it is a party,” Motes said. “It is not unusual to see 20 to 30 people watching a game and hanging out. You have so many people that have been playing in it for years and years. You get a lot of friends out there.”
In addition to the activity surrounding the field, Wilkins said that the event will hold its first-ever fishing derby, an informal event geared towards families.
Still, the Spider Stephens isn’t all fun and games. The men’s upper division has some of the top teams in the state.
“There are some guys that can hit home runs every time they step to the plate,” Motes said. “It is fun to watch people play a game as well as it can be played.”
The first games start today at 7 a.m. with the tournament wrapping up Sunday. For more information and tournament brackets, visit www.
Bryce Evans can be reached at (970)668-4634 or at bevans@
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