Feeling as though I’m admitting to a fatal flaw, I must confess I have no athletic background. Yet I found myself attending the 42nd Annual Smoky Mountain Classic. One of the largest tournaments in Men’s slowpitch soft¬ball, the Classic is held each year in scenic Maryville, Tennessee. Located near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Classic provides a natural setting where the top 30 teams from across America compete for a chance to play in the 2010 USSSA Men’s Major World Series Championship. Although the Classic is highly competitive there is an instantly recognizable sense of community among everyone in attendance – including the four-legged fans.
People of all ages cheerfully enter the park carrying blankets, lawn chairs & umbrellas, fully prepared to enjoy their summer day at the field. Despite weather ranging from sultry soaring tempera¬tures to steady rain, the overall mood remained bright as fans and players with¬stood the elements. Vendors provided icy treats as shade trees gave refuge from the sun and some measure of protection from the rains that fell Friday afternoon. Dedication was also apparent on the field as the games continued through the rain: no games were delayed and the schedule remained the same.
Raymond “Rock” Mishoe, a former player and avid fan who attends the Classic every year says, “There’s nothing better. The teams are the best of the best…dedicated players who are not in it for the money but for the love of the game.” Often players can be observed talking and laughing off of the field after a particularly intense game has been played. “Rock” Mishoe confirms that the seemingly familial ties are there. “Off the field, they’re like brothers. Once they get on the field it is all competition.” Even as a new fan I can easily surmise that this is one of the most important tour¬naments of the year. There is an unmis¬takable bond among everyone involved; the smiles I was continually greeted with made me feel like part of the family.
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), headquartered in Osceola County, Florida, USSSA is the World's Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA News!