For the next week, the Region is the softball capital of the Midwest, with 170 teams from states as far as Pennsylvania congregating along the South Shore for the annual National Softball Association (NSA) Fastpitch World Series.
Organized by the NSA in collaboration with the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority (SSCCVA), as well as cities and towns across the Region, the World Series sees hundreds of girls of all ages from 8u to 18u take to the fields and play for fun and glory. Tuesday marked the start of the festivities, with coaches gathering for meetings while the athletes took part in skills competitions at the Crown Point Sportsplex.
“I’m just always glad when we get going, but I’ll be even happier once I hear the words ‘play ball,’” said Bill Horton, president of the NSA. “Right now, all the fun is here for the girls.”
Northwest Indiana is home to an extensive softball community, with plenty of high-quality fields, athletic complexes, and a bevy of hotels and other support services that make it a perfect fit for an event of this scale. All of those factors have led to the South Shore hosting the Fastpitch World Series since 2007 – with a full history stretching back even further than that.
“We’ve had a great relationship with this area for a long time, I think it goes back to Mary Conner [a softball pioneer and member of the National Softball Hall of Fame] bringing over teams from another World Series group back in the early 90s,” Horton said. “From that point, we’ve just had a strong partnership with the communities in the area and a great relationship with the South Shore CVA. We’re all really excited that we can work together to try and put on the best events possible.”
The Crown Point Sportsplex is the primary hub for the Fastpitch World Series, hosting Tuesday’s kick-off and skills competition, as well as many of the games throughout the week.
“It’s fun having so many teams from around the country congregate here in Crown Point,” said Paul Waisnora, Crown Point’s PACE Department athletic superintendent. “The CVA’s really spearheaded this, we just back them up and provide the facility, and make sure the fields are ready. We’ve got 10 fields and two football fields, and we’ve returfed four of them with skinned infields and natural grass outfields.”
The athletes got a preview of the fields during the skills competition, which saw the teams test their speed around the bases, their quickness and accuracy throwing around the horn, and their accuracy throwing home from the outfield. Teams also traded pins that featured their team’s logos – making memories with girls from around the Midwest.
“It’s really exciting to see so many people come out from seven different states,” said Megan Goodan, chief sports & leisure officer with the SSCVA. “That’s people from all over the Midwest spread across three counties. We couldn’t do this without our partners, like the City of Crown Point, Dyer, Schererville, and the LaPorte Michigan City CVB also worked with us this year. We’re so excited to see everyone out here having fun with the NSA.”
Goodan said that the CVA expects the Region to see about $10.2 million in direct and indirect spending as a result of the World Series, with the event bringing six to eight thousand people to the area.