When animals began massing at the gates of Sandy Springs Park two by two, Joe Huff knew the 40th annual Smoky Mountain Classic softball tournament was in trouble.
When the best chance to resume play on championship Sunday passed at 1 p.m., the parks and recreation executive director knew it was time to call it quits.
A deluge of biblical proportions swamped the park’s fields early Sunday, forcing Huff to cancel the Smoky Mountain Classic’s final day for the first time in its history. The 3-hour thunderstorm, dumping three inches of rain on the park’s main field, was bad enough. The delay it caused, pushing many of the tournament’s players up against their departure times at McGhee Tyson Airport, was the finishing stroke.
“We went over to the (Airport) Hilton that Sunday afternoon to present the trophy,” Huff said, “and they all understood. They knew how much we wanted to play.”
With championship Sunday rained out, powerhouse Resmondo, the nation’s top-ranked team in men’s major slow-pitch softball, was declared the tournament champion by virtue of a 37-22 win over No. 2 Dan Smith in Saturday’s winner’s bracket finals. Long Haul and Fence Brokers Inc. finished the tournament’s third and fourth place teams, respectively.
Denny Crine belted 18 bombs in two days en route to the tournament’s home run crown. Resmondo pitcher/slugger Andy Purcell was named the classic’s most valuable player, committing only one out while batting for the duration of the tournament.
The classic had endured weather delays before. Huff remembers games being played as late as 11 p.m. on Sunday to finish up.
“We used to play the finals of the winner’s bracket on Saturday,” Huff said, “so, if it does rain, we do have a winner.”
Finances within the game won’t allow late games on Sunday anymore. Dan Smith and Resmondo canceling their flights and staying another day would have cost each team around $5,000.
The forecast for Sunday late Saturday called for rain later in the evening, not Sunday morning. Playing later the night before wasn’t an option anyway.
“We could have played later Saturday night, but nobody would have been there,” Huff said.
Washing out the final day didn’t do parks and rec any favors.
“We took a big hit financially,” Huff said. “We got hurt, big time.
“Friday and Saturday, we had a pretty good crowd. Sunday, the bottom fell out, literally.”
The tournament’s abrupt end has left parks and rec with an abundance of classic T-shirts and souvenirs. Huff said fans can get “a really good deal” on the T-shirts by stopping by the commission’s Everett High Road offices.