Drive for Five

One more, powerhouse Resmondo stands alone

Resmondo/Specialty Tank slugger Jeff Wallace bombs away during the Caldwell Fence Co. Home Run Derby at the Smoky Mountain Classic two years ago. Wallace leads the nation in home runs with a week to go until the 41st playing of the Classic next weekend.

Photo by Elizabeth Smith Shinn

Resmondo/Specialty Tank slugger Jeff Wallace bombs away during the Caldwell Fence Co. Home Run Derby at the Smoky Mountain Classic two years ago. Wallace leads the nation in home runs with a week to go until the 41st playing of the Classic next weekend.

Woody Bell

Photo by Elizabeth Smith Shinn

Woody Bell

Resmondo put together one of the greatest seasons slow-pitch softball has ever known six years ago.

Compiling a 63-3 overall record, the Winter Haven, Fla., club won all four majors – the season-ending/championship tournaments of the USSSA, ISA, NSA and ASA national governing bodies, respectively. Resmondo won 10 of 11 tournaments during that rampaging 2003 season, the only blemish coming in that summer’s Smoky Mountain Classic.

“You can’t get any better than that,” softball hall of fame owner Travis Resmondo said.

Well, there is one more out there.

The 41st annual Smoky Mountain Classic opens next Friday at Sandy Springs and other area parks. If Resmondo is the last team standing Sunday morning, Travis Resmondo will become the all-time winningest sponsor in the history of the tournament, surpassing the late Woody Bell, with whom Resmondo shares the record at four championships each.

Bell’s Bell Corp squad won four crowns between 1991 and 2007 before the iconic owner passed away last September.

Bell did things the right way, said Resmondo, 34, who last winter was inducted into the United States Slow-pitch Softball Association Hall of Fame.

“He was one of the few sponsors that did everything that he said he would do,” Travis Resmondo said.

Bell followed a simple formula in building his powerhouse teams: Get the best players; expect the best from them; treat them right.

It’s no different for today’s big three of Resmondo/Specialty Tank, Dan Smith/Menosse and Long Haul/Miken/Phonemasters, each onboard as part of this year’s field for the Classic. Following that format has brought Travis Resmondo within reach of a record that may stand the test of time.

“If I can win one more, I don’t think anybody can catch it,” Travis Resmondo said.

It is a star-studded club Resmondo brings to town in quest of the all-time mark. If softball players were rock stars, Resmondo/Specialty Tank would be The Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Cold Play, all rolled into one.

The Classic is unique among USSSA-sanctioned national tournaments in that there are no limits on home runs. Two Resmondo sluggers — Hall of Famer Jeff Wallace and Greg Connell — sit atop the current USSSA home run standings with 62 and 60 deep shots, respectively. Brian Rainwater, seventh, and Bobby Hughes, 10th, are warming up. B.J. Fulk, 11th, Bryson Baker, 17th, and Howard Krause, 18th, afford Resmondo seven of the nation’s top 20 long-ball threats.

Wallace — he of the 520-pound bench press, 620-pound dead lift and 650-pound squat — has more than 1,200 home runs in the last decade alone.

Game over?

Not exactly.

“You’ve got a lot of parity in those top three teams,” Maryville, Alcoa, Blount County Parks and Recreation executive director Joe Huff said, “and they can still be upset.”

Resmondo roughed up the rest of Conference USSSA in a big way during a five-tournament winning streak beginning May 1. At the 27th annual Dudley/Budweiser Classic in Brooklyn Center, Minn., last week, Long Haul turned the tables. After edging Resmondo, 34-32, in a winner’s bracket final, Long Haul bested loser’s bracket survivor Dan Smith, 24-11, in Sunday’s finale.

Long Haul, Dan Smith and Resmondo comprise the last three teams designated men’s major clubs in Conference USSSA softball.

“That says a lot about Long Haul,” Huff said. “They stepped up.”

Dan Smith, powered by headliners Rusty Bumgardner, Brian Wegman and Brian Justice, trails Resmondo, 1121-1029, in a close points race atop the season standings.

Bumgardner, Wegman and Justice currently occupy the Nos. 3 through 5 spots on the home run table.

Long Haul, with Brett McCollum’s 44 bombs good enough for sixth on the current home run table, is well within striking distance at 950 points.

Travis Resmondo has come a long way in a short amount of time since breaking in as a manager with the Bad Dogs of Polk County in 1995. If he claims a record fifth Classic title next weekend, the credit will have to be shared, he said. He felt the same way, he said, when he became USSSA’s youngest Hall of Fame inductee last winter.

“Being the youngest person in the Hall of Fame means a lot to me,” Travis Resmondo said, “but you can’t do it without good players.”

It’s that type of thinking that separates Resmondo, Bell, Smith and others from the rest in big-time softball, Huff said.

“The Woody Bells, the Travis Resmondos -- they just have a real passion for softball,” he said. “They’re doing it for the right reasons. They love it.”

A fifth Classic crown could also prove part of a farewell tour for Resmondo. His children, two sons and a daughter, are getting older and are hitting the playing field themselves. Resmondo said he’s cut the number of tournaments he’ll travel to each summer down to four.

“I don’t want to leave the game,” he said, “but priorities are priorities.”

Like winning.

For Travis Resmondo, it’s never been a question of mere chance.

The Smoky Mountain Classic begins Thursday evening, July 9, with the Caldwell Fence and Erection Company Home Run Derby at 7 p.m. at Sandy Springs Park. Classic play begins Friday, July 10, at 4 p.m. at four area parks. Tickets, at the gate, are $5 on Friday, $6 on Saturday and $5 on Sunday. For a complete look at the tournament, pick up next week’s Blount Today special section on Thursday, July 9. Information is also available at www.smokymountainsoftballclassic.com.

© 2009 blounttoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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