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Go in the snow

1/28/2015

Slow-pitch on ice. Combining the athleticism found at the bottom of a beer, the grace of a derailed train and the camaraderie of a night on the town, snoball may just be the sport of the Midwest.

The Snoball Softball Tournament will be held Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 at Savage Park.

The Snoball Softball Tournament will be held Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 at Savage Park.

Now in it’s 22nd year, the Adult Snoball Softball Tournament has been attracting players every winter to run around snow-covered bases and trip over their feet in pursuit of ground balls and dig out line drives embedded in snow banks.

“Actually our winter tournaments are our biggest, with 42 teams participating last year,” said Tim Smith, recreation supervisor and coordinator of snoball tournaments. “It was started by Bob Savage, long-time Park and Recreation Department employee who passed away a few years ago. The athletics office kept getting calls from people right after the holidays asking when softball was going to start, so he decided to put a winter tournament together.”

As the name implies, this softball tournament will take place in nearly any weather condition — preferably snow. Players don their hats, mittens, coats, long johns and whatever else they may need to combat Iowa’s tundra for a weekend of fun at a unique outdoor event that is enjoyed by participants and spectators alike.

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In the past, the tournament has been played in snow, rain, ice and below-zero temperatures. Smith encourages everyone to bundle up, use hand warmers and bring extra clothing.

“Dress warm in clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined,” said Smith. “If the weather is mild, the fields will get very muddy. And don’t take things too seriously.

“A few hardy souls will stick with traditional softball clothing, but most dress for the weather.”

Certainly the action on the diamond borrows more from the Three Stooges than Ozzie Smith. A batter gets a little ahead of himself as the pitch comes in and does a stutter-step, loses his balance and falls face-down into the snow. An outfielder chases an out-of-reach pop fly that sinks into the snow, and has to get down on his hands and knees to dig for it. A shortstop throws home to catch a runner, but both catcher’s and runner’s hats have fallen to cover their eyes and as the ball sails past the umpire and everyone disappears in a tangle of bodies, arms and legs.

“Occasionally the ball does get lost in the snow, but it’s all part of the fun,” Smith said. “No one takes it too seriously.”

Remember, this is not the usual summer ball. Not only will you make mistakes (errors), you’re expected to. Throwing a 12-inch ball is difficult enough, adding a glove to your throwing hand makes it all the more challenging. And be sure to hit the snow every once in a while if the weather permits. You can sometimes start your slide as far as 15 feet from the base.

“This event is unique because it shows how passionate people are about softball. Thousands of people across Iowa play softball during the summer,” said Smith. “But we in Des Moines love softball so much, we play in the middle of winter.” CV

 

22nd Annual Adult Snoball Softball Tournament (Men)
Jan. 30 and Feb. 1
Savage Park (2559 Hubbell Ave.)
Games start around 8 a.m., with the last game beginning around 4 p.m.

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