BISMARCK, N.D. - Forty-four years ago, Sam McQuade Sr. wanted to hold a softball tournament to raise money for local charities.
McQuade's idea was such a good one, the McQuade quickly grew into the largest sanctioned slowpitch tournament in the world. The latest edition of the event starts this week.
"We have 457 teams. It's up one team from last year and it's kind of the maximum that we can have. We do have teams on a waiting list so if some teams drop out it's a nice luxury to have to be able to fit those back in," said Mike Wolf, tournament director,.
The diamond's are busy beginning on Friday with championships set for Sunday, but this softball event starts earlier at a baseball stadium.
"We're actually kicking off the tournament on a Thursday night for the first time ever over at Dakota Community Bank field and we're having the USA Patriots playing an exhibition over there against some of the McQuade All-Stars at 8:00. But prior to that, we partnered with Major League Baseball and we have a play ball event for kids 7-13 boys and girls. They can go to the McQuade website and they can register," said Wolf.
There are 14 divisions for players of every talent level but the men's open division seems to be the fan favorite.
"A lot of old college players in there. Over the years some retired Major League Baseball players pop up every once in a while, but they're kind of the cream of the crop for softball players and they're the guys who can hit the home run when you need it, but they can also hit the ball to right field when they need a single to score a run too. So, these are the guys who cover all aspects of the game," said Wolf.
But Wolf is quick to point out that the rec divisions are the ones with the greatest number of players.
"In our men's Rec III, we have probably 80 teams, and in our Rec IV, we have 48, and 40 in our women's Rec III. Those are really the players that support softball throughout the United States. It's nice to come and watch the upper divisions play but they are a minority of the players in softball not only in North Dakota, but throughout the country," said Wolf.