Ryan Sparks
Curry Coastal Pilot

For most softball tournaments the fact that there is a torrential downpour means pack up your gear and get to shelter; no games will be played under such a deluge.

The annual Slippery Banana Belt Softball Tournament is a little different. It's played under any conditions, rain or shine, and that's just the way the players like it.

"It's one of the early tournaments of the season and it's just fun," Doug Agee of the Roseburg Jersey Lilly said. "We come down here with our families and rent a place by the beach and get to live it up with your friends early in the season."

"We can't play in Salem this early in the year. Our fields are unplayable," stated Lindsey Braun, who plays for the Salem Women of Westside (WOW). "Here they let us play."

The 13th edition of the tournament was held this past weekend at Bud Cross Park and Azalea State Park in Brookings. A total of 552 players, comprising 46 teams, participated in a tournament that was highlighted by competitive play, spirited camaraderie, and many a muddy uniform.

"That's the most fun they (players) have had in a long time," said tournament director Barb Glazebrook. "It turned out good. We had no problems and everybody had a great time."

The teams were divided into two different divisions (upper and lower) for both the men and the women.

In the women's lower division Pipeline from Medford defeated the lone team from Brookings-Harbor, the 101, to win the lower division championship. The Outlaws from Medford finished third.

The women's upper division saw WOW defeat the Medford Relax for their first Slippery Banana Belt crown. The Grant's Pass Rebels finished third.

"I'm covered in mud," WOW's Braun told her teammates after they received their championship sweatshirts.

"Just playing in this is amazing," WOW's Sandra Ambrose happily declared. "It's a kickoff to our women's season, and what a way to kick off the season!"

In the men's lower division, the Walking Billboards from Grant's Pass triumphed over the Medford Liquor Box for the title. The Medford Moonshiners finished in third place.

Finally, in the men's upper division the Roseburg Jersey Lilly took home the title by beating the Medford Hussey. Medford's Big Horn finished third.

"We've played in this (tournament) plenty of times before and (the conditions) are what we expect," said a cheerful Agee, who had the game-winning hit in the championship game.

Saturday's rainstorm created a rare opportunity for the athletes to play in conditions usually reserved for football games. It was the first time in the past seven years that the Slippery Banana Belt experienced rain during tournament play and that was only for the final championship game.

The storms came early for this year's tournament, creating soggy and muddy conditions on Saturday and, though the sun showed itself on Sunday, the field setting still reminded one of a mud run course rather than a softball field, but, for the experienced players that have competed in this tournament year after year, it's what they've come to expect.

"I'll take muddy and sloppy with sunshine over muddy and sloppy with rain any day of the week," quipped Agee.

Glazebrook said that, though the fields were drenched, there was only one reported injury for the entire 46-team field and that she was satisfied that the tournament went off without a hitch.

"We really put a lot of work into getting the fields ready," she said. "Overall, it was a great tournament."