‘World Series’-like tournament projected to generate over $1.25 million for Placer Valley economy
Roseville, Calif. – Big hits, power pitches, and must-win games will highlight USA Softball’s Western Softball “B” National Championships tournament July 24-30 in Roseville and Lincoln, bringing about 3,500 athletes, coaches and fans – and generating more than $1.25 million for the Placer Valley economy.
The tournament swings into action with opening ceremonies on the evening of Monday (July 24) at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, with the first games starting 8:30 a.m. Tuesday (July 25) at Maidu and Mahany regional parks in Roseville and Foskett Regional Park in Lincoln. Fans can enjoy the games for free.
About 80 USA Softball-affiliated teams – from as far away as Hawaii and Montana, including about 20 from the Sacramento region – will participate in the tournament. The teams are in the 12-, 14- and 16-year-old and under categories.
Games start at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 9 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The last games of the day are 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The championship games are on Sunday.
Placer Valley Tourism has hosted the Western Softball “B” National Championships two of the past three years, and more than 10 times overall, according to organizers. Placer Valley Tourism competes every year with other communities for the high-profile and revenue-generating tournament.
“The tournament has been a big hit for the athletes, softball fans and business owners in the community,” said Kim Summers, CEO of Placer Valley Tourism and @the Grounds, home of the Roebbelen Center. “It’s a fun, family-friendly tournament that showcases one of the most popular girls’ sports and helps highlight Placer Valley as a sports tourism destination.”
“‘It’s like the World Series”
The weeklong tournament allows Sacramento-area teams to stay close to home while playing against the best in the West. Teams must advance from their regional tournaments to the Western Softball “B” National Championships.
“It’s like the World Series,” said Dan Del Mazzio, Head Coach of the Pocket Aces 12-and-under team. “It’s a huge tournament. This is the top-of-the-top teams. Many of these teams are better than ‘A’ teams (also known as travel teams). It’s going to be very competitive and gets pretty intense.”
Del Mazzio and his players know from experience. The Pocket Aces advanced but lost in the Western Championships last summer in Corona. After a 54-win season this year, including wins against “A” teams, the Pocket Aces from southwest Sacramento are ready for the tournament.
“We’ve prepped all season for this,” said Del Mazzio, who adds that being close to home helps. “We are feeling good, and we feel good that the tournament is local. There are less distractions and less traveling. It’s definitely a huge advantage.”
And every advantage helps, from being close home to knowing how to stay cool with 100-degree temperatures.
“It will be tough competition,” said Laura Niznik Williams, manager of the Roseville Thunder’s 12-and-under team. “The girls are excited; this is the last tournament of the season.”
It is also the largest tournament, with about 1,000 players, many who will continue to play softball through high school and some while attending college.
Competition and fun
“For many of these girls, this is the first time making it to the tournament,” said Karla Burket, tournament director and Junior Olympic Commissioner for USA Softball of Sacramento.
The end-of-the-season tournament allows teams to compete for the championship, but also to connect with each other and develop friendships with players from other teams.
“The girls are amazing,” said Niznik Williams, whose team also competed in the Western Softball “B” National Championship tournament last year in Southern California. “They are so resilient. They are gaining great skills.”
The competition is first notch, but the players also have a lot of fun during the week, Burket said.
The opening ceremony Monday night at Woodcreek High School – complete with costumes, dance-offs, trades of team pins, and the parade of the players and teams – attracts family members, softball fans and even occasional onlookers.
“It’s phenomenal and so much fun,” tournament vendor coordinator Lisa Montes said of the opening ceremony. “The atmosphere gets to me.”
Fun but also a lot of hard work. The community’s support, especially from city staffs in Roseville and Lincoln and the 50-plus volunteers from USA Softball Sacramento’s youth leagues, make the tournament a success.
“The volunteers have so much passion for the sport and for the kids who play it, and they’re driven to make it such a special experience,” Montes said. “Some of these volunteers are here all day.”
Their commitment to the athletes, fans and the sport make the tournament such a success.
“We’re very fortunate to have the support of the softball community,” said Niznik Williams.