It was a weekend to remember….a grand slam time in Orrville, Ohio, packed full of fast pitch softball, carnival rides, food, music and a grand finale fireworks show. The Orrville Firefighters Association held its annual July 4th Fire in the Sky 14-under ASA Eastern National qualifying softball tournament for the seventh year in a row in conjunction with the Orrville Independence day carnival and fireworks presentation.
This year the tournament expanded to include 32 teams, up from 24 last year, with participants from all over Ohio as well as those who traveled from other states. Several came from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York, with additional teams wanting to participate, but the slots were already full. “3 years ago, we had 16 teams and they were kind of lower caliber and now we have 32 teams and we sell out in February,” said tournament director Joe Horn. Horn has been directing the event for 3 years and every year the response has been overwhelming. “We had a team call from Boston and actually…we were already full.” “The quality of the tournament has developed into something really, really unique,” says Horn.
A big drawing factor to the Fire in the Sky tournament is the quality of the playing fields. “The quality of our fields and what we have going out on the diamonds is really what separates us from a lot of the other tournaments,” says Joe Horn. The firefighters had the task of grooming six fields for a total of 78 games during the course of the 3 days. The firefighters used tractors from Ventrac, the official grounds care equipment provider and with only 15 minutes between each game, the fields are dressed, relined and watered to look brand new for the next game. Coaches are continually impressed with the field quality and the phenomenal job the firefighters do. One parent commented, “not many tournaments water the entire field between games. Terrific tournament!”
The weekend began with pool play and then moved on to the elimination rounds bringing the top two teams together for the final playoff. The West Virginia Mountain Thunder played Valley Extreme in the final challenge game. With the score 3-2 at the top of the seventh, Mountain Thunder held their own and walked away with the championship. Both teams played really, really hard and it came down to a close call. Joe Horn’s expressive style of announcing kept the spectators intrigued as he provided player info and highlights during the weekend.
As interest grows each year, coaches, parents and players continue to give rave reviews about the pleasant hospitality of the Firefighters Association, the city of Orrville, and the community as a whole. “It’s as if the entire city shuts down for this event”, said one parent. “The people here are down to earth, just like home.”
The quality of the tournament brings teams back year after year. With excellent playing fields, great competition, huge crowds and a family environment, the Fire in the Sky continues to be a top notch event and a highly sought after tournament among participants. The whole weekend surroundings, with the carnival and fireworks, is something most don’t get any where else. “It’s a family atmosphere, that’s what it is all about,” says Steve Watts, coach for WV Mountain Thunder. “The background, the carnival, the whole thing, it’s awesome.” Once again, another incredibly successful tournament hosted by the Orrville Firefighters Association! Well done!