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Published: Wednesday, 5/5/2010

25th softball tourney to aid Open Door food bank in Delta


DELTA — Twenty-four years ago, Doug Eicher started organizing a softball tournament on Memorial Day weekend to benefit a local food bank that assists Delta's less fortunate.

Now in its 25th year, the Memorial Day tournament is still going strong and has raised more than $50,000 for the Open Door over the years, Mr. Eicher said.

In recent years, a format change has allowed more teams to participate and thus increased the annual proceeds to $3,000 to $3,500 for the food bank, he said.

Each batter gets only one pitch.

If that pitch misses the strike zone, the batter walks to first base. If it's a strike, the batter has to hit into fair territory or it's a strikeout — even a foul ball is one-and-done.

With that rule, Mr. Eicher said, a seven-inning game typically takes about 45 minutes to play “unless we've got two really good-hitting teams.”

But it's usually not hard for batters to put the ball in play, because the pitchers know a few bad pitches can load the bases really quickly.

“The pitcher has to get them across. I'm a pitcher — I know that,” he said.

The weekend also includes a home-run derby divided into age brackets, including a children's home-run derby added this year.

“If their dads and moms are playing, they get bored a little bit,” Mr. Eicher said, noting that the idea was borrowed from softball tournaments elsewhere.

Mr. Eicher said he expects at least 18 teams to participate in the event, which starts on the Friday evening of Memorial Day weekend and concludes that Sunday, May 30, with a double-elimination tournament involving the three best teams from the preliminary round.

The registration deadline is Monday, with the drawing of opponents scheduled to be held at 7 that evening at the Poth Shelter House in Delta.

Teams compete in either a men's division or a co-ed division. Each team is guaranteed to play at least five games during the event, held on the three diamonds at Delta Park.

Although most of the teams come from the Delta area, Mr. Eicher said the tournament also has drawn competitors from as far away as Cincinnati and Bluffton, Ind.

The park has electrical and water hook-ups for camping, he said, and the adjacent community pool will be open for the weekend “if the weather is nice,” he said.

Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in Delta Park.

Entry costs $150 per team, and each participant is asked to bring three canned-food items or a $2 cash donation to the Open Door, which is in the building where Mr. Eicher's father once operated a grocery store.

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