Tournament a home run for Tupper Lake

TUPPER LAKE – With the crack of a bat and the roar of the crowd, the Old Home Week softball tournament was in full swing at the Tupper Lake Municipal Park grandstand.

At last week’s town board meeting, Councilman Rick Skiff told the board that the two-day tournament, which ran July 4 weekend, was successful, both in attendance and in drawing teams to the area. The Plattsburgh team, “The Hitmen,” walked away with the trophy for the second year in a row.

“It was probably the best year so far,” Skiff said. “I had 10 campers at the ballpark, we were so packed. They even had a little vendors market set up there.”

The tournament began in the late 1980s but eventually ended. It started back up in 2007, a year after the Tupper Lake Softball Association was reignited. Skiff is the commissioner of the Softball Association, and he organizes the event every year. The tournament is sponsored by the Tupper Lake Rotary Club.

Skiff said the cutoff this year was 14 teams, but that wasn’t for lack of interest. He had to turn about 10 teams away, and sIx have already reserved spots for next year.

Ten of the teams traveled to compete, including four from Plattsburgh and Glens Falls. Each team has 11 players, and Skiff said each player usually brings at least one other person.

“It’s hard to say, but I’d think 20 to 50 people come with each teams,” Skiff said. “Some of the players bring their whole families up here, and some of them just bring their spouse or something like that. The ones who are really traveling, they’re not driving back and forth. Even the ones from Plattsburgh, I think two of the four teams stayed here.”

The only problem is, there’s barely enough space for the traveling teams. An overflow at the campground prompted village officials to let 10 groups stay at the park. Little Wolf Campground caretaker Paul Besaw told the town board that might be worth looking into.

Skiff said many of the tournament visitors choose the campground as their first choice, but others stay elsewhere and turn the weekend into a vacation.

“Most of those guys were here Thursday night or Friday night,” Skiff said. “Some of them stayed Sunday night and watched the fireworks. I also had people stay on Lake Simond and rent cabins there for the whole week.”

Skiff would also like to be able to have 20 teams enter the tournament, but that would require another field. The Softball Association already uses the junior varsity field at L.P. Quinn Elementary School for secondary games.

“Where the pavilion is right now (at the Municipal Park), we used to have another field,” Skiff said. “A lot of that is up to village officials, and I’m not really sure what they can do at this point.”

What is becoming a top priority for Skiff is organizing a Tri-Lakes youth baseball tournament. He said it’s been discussed for years, but he’d like to see it happen soon.

“I’ve spoken to some business people here, and what I’d like to see is a Tri-Lakes All-Star tournament,” Skiff said. “I’d like to see no entry fee, and maybe get the softball league and some of the local boards to sponsor it. We could get the kids playing under the lights, and I think that’d be a really good experience for them.”