40th annual Goosetown Homerun Derby should be bigger and better than ever

The 40th annual Goosetown softball tournament is nearly upon us. Four days of craziness capped, in my opinion, by one of the most unique spectator events around will fill Anaconda and Butte with dirtballers, boys and girls, men and women, young and old, looking to be a part of the mystique of one of the biggest and most tenured softball tournaments in the United States.

For anyone who is visiting the League Lineup Goosetown homepage, many of which in turn were driven here to my blog, you all know what Goosetown is about. For the others who have never been to the biggest weekend in softball in the Northwest, here’s a guide to Saturday’s Home Run Derby: THE premiere showcase of some of the biggest hitters of a softball created by, well, probably a mommy and daddy some 20 years prior in Washoe Park who just happened to meet by chance at the biggest weekend of softball in the Northwest (forget about Simba, THIS is the circle of life!!).

I published this column (below) when I was the sports editor at The Anaconda Leader along with doing some artwork to support it. Last year (2012), the Home Run Derby was cancelled for the first time ever when a rolling blackout through Anaconda was caused with a few chance lightening strikes and sheets of rain and hale, thus the distances I researched were not able to be gauged accordingly. In 2013, hopefully we can get back to the business of enjoying a crazy night in Washoe Park.

Washoe Park home run guide

Here is a rendering of Washoe Park as seen behind home plate. The distanced were measured by laser from the back of home plate and the base of the trees in the outfield. Below are those distances in reference to the numbers provided above.  Photo copyright CS Photo, LLC

Screen shot 2013-06-25 at 9.43.36 AM

By Blake Hempstead

When Saturday night rolls around you can be sure of many things during the wackiest weekend of softball in the world. 1, Anaconda will be the center of the slow pitch softball universe, 2, There’s someone passed out in your yard three miles from the entrance to any softball field, and 3, the Home Run Derby will gather upwards of 5,000 people young and old, clothed or not, for a display of power in the grand amphitheater known simply as Washoe Park.

Haters of the tournament will always be around, but if there’s one event that local businesses and recreational softball nuts agree upon it’s that Goosetown is the staple of July in the Smelter City.

And the event, which starts at 3 p.m. Friday, basically hits its peak on Saturday evening at about 9 p.m. when balls start launching out of the venerable venue thanks to some of the biggest hitters in the Northwest.

Washoe Park dimensions

For years, whether I was announcing the derby or in attendance as a spectator, I’ve constantly told people they have no idea how far balls are actually flying out of the park. So this year, I put some perspective to the fences.

For example, the basic dimensions are 320 to left, 350 to center and 310 to right. But what about the shots that neared the treetops before they left the view of the Washoe Park lights? What you can’t tell from the stands is there’s a walking trail and several feet of open space, varying at each location, between the outfield wall and banks of trees.

For those in the business of knowing everything, here’s your answer.

The tallest tree in the grid pops up in right field, standing 139.5 feet tall 396 feet from home plate. Now I could have probably figured out the estimated distance the ball could fly it topped the tree, but since I can’t even balance a checkbook it’s probably best we ballpark it at an extra 100 to 150 feet. Don’t be shocked if Butte’s Mike Waldorf tests this bad boy.

The extreme left field line where the tree is – which stands mostly in foul territory but is a great judge of distance – is 543 feet from home plate standing 96 feet tall. I don’t remember anyone pulling a ball this high and that far, but I could have missed one or two over the years. Possibly Doug Bond and maybe the new gunner, Chris Larson, brought into the tournament this year by Boomer’s Pub of Missoula.

What I do remember is players regularly hitting moon shots over the power alleys in left and right center field and the occasional bomb to dead center. Every year, some man resembling Zeus pounds a ball near the deep tree in center, which measures 543 feet at the top.

Even shots topping the light poles are routinely 360 to 400 feet before they hit Warm Springs Creek, and those are line drives.

Do me a favor, take this guide to the park with you Saturday and get a feel for just how far these balls are traveling. You’ll have a new-found respect for what the hitters are accomplishing.

Ball so hard, bat so hot

Ever wonder why some random fatso can hit the ball routinely out of the park and the Joe Boyer’s of the world fly out to the pitcher? It’s all about bat speed my friend.

The range of a lower league player’s bat speed is 65-77 mph (mine is probably lower still in my old age, unless I’m swinging a hot dog to my mouth, which, ironically, equates to the speed of light). However, fact sheets on many of the top bat and ball manufacturers Web sites call for “A” league players — or players typically entering Saturday’s Home Run Derby — to reach upwards of 88 mph. With that in mind, exit speed, the measure of the speed of the ball at it comes off the bat, becomes a huge factor.

According to charts found at efastball.com, an exit speed of 95 mph is required to hit a ball 326 feet or 100 mph for a shot of 350. However, this chart takes into account only wood bats and states the exit speed may reach an additional 8 mph with the use of aluminum or composite equipment.

By using the same figures found on the chart above, and according to the formula used by the author, every 1 mph of additional exit speed makes the ball go 5 more feet. Therefore, each figure could realistically increase by 40 total feet.

Because Goosetown falls under the American Softball Association (ASA) sanctioning body, the requirements for each bat are not to exceed 98 mph. But the day teams in serious competition follow this rule is the day canker sores befriend mustard.

And especially in the Home Run Derby. Players are not bound by any legality of bats in Goosetown’s banner showcase, therefore bring in “rolled” versions of Easton, Miken and USSSA models of Worth bats hotter than a Ferrari spotted in downtown Anaconda. In fact some illegal bats reach exit speeds of 130 mph, the reason why officials at ASA were so stringent on adhering to the banned bats list each year.

For example, if some no-necked gorilla handling a rolled bat hit a ball back at a pitcher who is standing on the standard mound of 50 feet as fast as physics would allow, that poor sonofagun pitching would have a ball coming at him 190.67 feet per second — giving the pitcher .262 seconds to react.

In essence, if you are a pitcher with some skeletons in your closet against a team holding an altered Miken Ultra II, you’d better use the back of your Will as scratch paper to keep score.  

Because there’s no way to monitor who’s toting what bat, and due to the event being a spectator showcase, players could swing a car door if it helped them topple the required distances.

In the end, if you’ve never been to Goosetown or if the tournament is on your yearly “to do” lists, welcome to our little slice of heaven.

A few guidelines to remember when you are the newest residents of Montana’s premier township: Our city is yours as long as you leave it as it was when you arrived, visit downtown Anaconda for some one-of-a-kind shopping and culture and for goodness sake, for all you pet owners, leash up your cats, they are relentless, out of control beasts that are hell bent on taking over our fair city. We have laws around here, dammit.

That is all. Have fun kids. Don’t forget to tip your mortician.

Estes follows her roots, inks with Utah State

Since 1965, Utah State has been without an Estes matriculating on campus.

That 48 year drought will end come the 2013 fall semester.


Mia Estes signed her National Letter of Intent at the studios of KANA 580 AM Wednesday afternoon. Photo copyright CS Photo, LLC

Mia Estes will join the Aggies women’s track and field program as a javelin thrower after signing her letter of intent on Wednesday, June 19, at the studios of KANA 580 AM in Anaconda. In 1965, Mia’s larger-than-life uncle, Wayne Estes, attended and immortalized himself as a All-America basketball legend on the Logan, Utah campus.

“I’m really happy, it’s kind of unreal,” said the Anaconda High School multi-sport athlete regarding the signing and recruitment process. “I had a lot of tough schools I had to choose from, and that’s because of the coaches I connected with. It was hard to pick where I wanted to be or call home for the next four years.”

Mia’s father and throwing coach, Ron, who was just a boy when his big brother Wayne was killed at the scene of a traffic accident following a game in 1965, believes Logan is the perfect place to continue her athletic and scholastic career, even if separating from his only daughter is going to be difficult.

“We’re extremely close,”Mia said glowingly of her dad. “I think he’s exited for me. He knows it will be a good place for me, it’s a safe town.”

Not that Mia will ever have to feel the burden of following in the footsteps of her uncle Wayne, however it’s still important to her to make a good example following the acceptance into the Aggies family.

“It’s really special, and it’s a lot to own up to,” Mia said, choking up. “It’s going to be a fun experience, I’m so excited for my journey to begin.”

Wayne Estes, just hours after scoring 48 points in a win over Denver University on Feb. 8, 1965, was electrocuted at the scene of a car accident when his head came into contact with a downed power line. That night, he scored his 2,001st point (a school record at the time) in his third-year as an Aggie.

Following that, his senior season, Wayne Estes was named to the All-America Second Team and was projected to be selected above Rick Barry in the NBA draft with the No. 1 pick. He was drafted, posthumously, by the Lakers.

Not only is he remembered with a shrine in Nelson Fieldhouse, his likeness is a major part of Anaconda’s Memorial Gymnasium trophy case as well. In addition, he is remembered every year at the end of March for the annual Wayne Estes Memorial Basketball Tournament, a collection of high school and adult teams that has drawn upwards of 120 teams.

Now, USU is Mia’s university too.


At the beginning of her senior season, Mia was sporadically receiving offers from schools — many just partial or incentive-laden scholarships. Sure, she had been in contact with local universities such as Montana and Montana State, but nothing too in depth.


Mia Estes as a senior for the Copperheads. Photo copyright CS Photo, LLC

But once she shattered her own school record with a throw of 143-10 at the Beaverhead Invitational in Dillon, Mont. – a throw that unofficially placed her fourth for a prep in the United State according to athletic.net – word quickly spread about the 5-foot-7 superstar in the making. As if that wasn’t enough to get her noticed, just days later she popped the a throw of 146-3 at the Belgrade Invitational in Bozeman, Mont., to effectively send her suitors into a frenzy.

After several attempts at improving on her school-record mark came up short, Mia settled for her second-straight Southwestern A Conference title. Then, she claimed what has basically become her family birth right at the end of May, winning the Montana Class A state championship in Laurel. The win allowed her to join her father, Ron (1970-Class AA, Anaconda High) and brother Michael (1999-Class C, Granite Co. (Philipsburg), 2001-Class A, Anaconda High) as state javelin champions.

And although she came up short of her goal of setting the state girls’ javelin record, her dream of standing on top of the podium akin to her father and brother was fulfilled.

Getting the state-championship monkey off her back was nearly as rewarding as finally signing her name on the National Letter of Intent – both of which have consumed her with worry for some time. Now, Mia can’t wait to get on campus and begin building lasting relationships with her new teammates.

“They’ve been texting me a lot, wondering when I was going to sign,” she said. “I can’t wait to be there with them.”

Now, university officials are calling on Mia to be a part of the ceremony kicking off construction of the Wayne Estes Center, a $9.5-million multi-sports facility on the USU campus announced earlier this year.

“They want me to come down for the groundbreaking,” Mia said. “That’s going to be a very special day for us.”

Mia will pursue a degree in physical therapy.

Johnson twins representing Anaconda well at Montana Hershey

Now the waiting game begins.

imageLogan and Layne Johnson, soon-to-be seventh-graders at Fred Moodry Middle School in Anaconda, each placed in three individual events at the 2013 Montana Hershey Track and Field Championships in Colstrip on Saturday, June 15.

And to top it all off, Layne’s 800 meter performance may get him a trip to Hershey, Penn. in August for the North American Finals.

Although Logan’s best finishes were extremely admirable runner-ups in the 400 meter dash and softball throw, Layne busted out a first-place in the 800 meter run in the boys’ 11-12-year-old division to qualify for a chance at the National Finals.

Logan added a third-place finish in the 100 meter while Layne notched a third in the 200 and fifth in the long jump.

Layne will now have to wait to compare his time with eight other states around the Northwest Region to see if he will qualify for the Hershey National Track and Field Meet Aug. 1-4 in Hershey, Penn.

The Johnson’s are the sons of Wade and Jaime Johnson.

Class of 1993 20th reunion registration form

Oh boy, you are all old as shit!

But if you’re at this location, at least you’ve owned up to it! Welcome Class of ’93 to the second installment of reunions for us, our 20th! By clicking the link below, it will download our registration form via PDF format. It is an interactive PDF, so all you have to do is fill it out, save it as a new document name (for example Reunion.PDF) and email it to brhempstead@yahoo.com .

Class of 1993 Registration Form

If you have an old version of Adobe, click here to upgrade

Just an FYI, we are asking that these be sent in no later than Sunday, June 30 so we can continue the planning phase with Old Works and our caterers. The dates of events will be as follows:

Thursday, July 18

We will have kegs in the park. This is free to everyone (except for the dirty hippies who have recently inhabited Anaconda) in the class or even people who want to stop by and shoot the breeze.

Friday, July 19

Registration at Locker Room (kids welcome early, but please none after 6 p.m.) Many have expressed an interest of taking in some Art in the Park from 6-9 p.m., but just know we will have drink specials for all Summit Beverage products from 6-close at the Locker Room.

Saturday, July 20

Saturday we will have golf scramble at Old Works and 3 and 6-mile walk/run or 15-mile bike ride through the Pintler byway and Washoe Park before finishing at Old Works for a picnic. (A quick FYI, if we don’t have much interest in the walk/run, we’re not going to put Michelle through the hell on trying to get it set up.) The picnic will begin about 2 p.m. That night dinner with music provided at VFW will begin at approximately 7 p.m., but cocktails will start at 6 p.m. and last until 2 a.m.

Sunday, July 21

Sunday picnic at Washoe Park Pool will go from 11 a.m .to 2 p.m.

A class photo and family photos will also be available if you want one as well. Babysitting can be set up for anyone who needs it on any day, just give me a heads up and I’ll get you some names.

I’m going to also invite some old teachers and friends of the class, so if you have a friend that may want to come along that was close to us as classmates, bring ‘em along! If they want to be included in the meals, they will need to pay just like the rest of us, plus $12 for the dinner on Saturday.

If you have any suggestions, don’t hesitate to call either myself or Amy. If all you want to do is complain, save it. We’ve met for a year and we haven’t heard a peep! See you in a month!

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Anaconda’s Jimmy Verlanic: From athletic underdog to classroom superstar

Bobcat Beat

 Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of “Where are they now?”-style pieces on memorable Bobcats from Montana State teams of the past.

 Jimmy Verlanic was always a natural.

Jim Verlanic mug

When it came to competing on the football field, the Anaconda native usually had to give everything he had to hold his own. But in the classroom, the former Copperhead valedictorian was a star.

As the former Montana State offensive lineman (2004-2008) begins his third year of medical school at the University of Nevada-Reno, his mental mettle is finally being tested.

“It is difficult,” Verlanic said. “School has always been one of those things that came to me naturally. Even in college, playing football, it took a lot more energy for me to excel in football than it did academically. Medical school, I thought all I had to do was go to school so it would be easy. And I never developed incredible study habits because it wasn’t that hard in college. Medical school has forced me to study constantly. That’s been one of the hardest things because your life becomes sitting on your ass reading Power Point slides and a textbook. That’s been a huge challenge.”

On Thursday morning, Verlanic took his Step 1 board exam. He’s not sure what the result will be, but he’s cautiously optimistic he did well. After five weeks of spending 12 to 14 hours a day studying, the biggest test of his life is behind him.

“The depth of knowledge they expect and the subsequent amount of studying it takes to get to that level is rather astounding,” the former center said. “This week while I was getting ready for the test, my dad (Ken) told me at least I didn’t’ have to line up across from a nose guard that wanted to rip my face off. I just had to sit in a room and take a test.”

If things go according to plan, Verlanic has no more didactic learning. He won’t spend much time sitting in classrooms or libraries. Now he’s on to his clinical work and he can see his ultimate goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon on the distant horizon.

Academics may have come easily to the captain of the 2008 Bobcats, but the 27-year-old appreciates how much his alma mater prepared him nonetheless.

Verlanic up

Jimmy Verlanic at his center position in the 2007 season. Photo by R. Dean Hendrickson

“I did one of the tougher degree programs at Montana State and combined with football, I had a very busy schedule,” said Verlanic, who was an Academic All-Big Sky selection three times in his Bobcat career. “One of the biggest things I learned was how to handle my time efficiently. Once you learn how to handle your time, you can handle each aspect of your life with everything that is going on.”

“Montana State academically prepared me tremendously,” Verlanic continued. “I took an anatomy class my senior year of college at Montana State that really helped me excel my first year of medical school. I felt like I couldn’t have been better prepared academically.”

Verlanic was born in Butte and grew up in the Smelter City of Anaconda. Bozeman was a bit of a change, although the outdoor enthusiast said he’s always been a Bobcat fan who came to the Gallatin Valley as a kid. He spent his first year of med school at Nevada-Las Vegas before moving to Reno.

“Reno is an interesting place,” Verlanci said. “I lived in Vegas for a few years and right away, I liked that Reno is a lot more similar to home. You have mountains and snow and the climate is more like Montana. It’s smaller than Vegas too, which I definitely like. It’s a town with a lot of character. We live down in midtown and there’s a lot of Hipster changes lately, which has been interesting. It’s not somewhere I’d like to stay forever. I’d like to get back to Montana.”

When Verlanic first arrived at Montana State, he was a 200-pound walk-on. By the time he wrapped up his career, he was a 260-pound two-year starter and a team captain. He started a legacy that continued for the past five seasons. He passed on his No. 61 to Alex Terrien. Terrien, an All-America captain in 2011, passed the jersey on to all-league tackle Steven Foster last season. It’s uncertain if the tradition will continue. Freshman defensive Connor Thomas is currently listed as No. 61 on the MSU roster, but was switched to No. 97 following fall camp. Numbers won’t be official until fall camp opens on Aug. 4.

bobcat media guide

Probably one of the coolest family heirlooms a father-son could ever ask for, Jimmy and his father, Ken, appeared on the 2008 Bobcat Football program.

Verlanic, who’s father, Ken, played offensive guard on MSU’s 1976 national title team, tries to keep up with the ascending Bobcats as best he can. He watches games on Big Sky TV and on ROOT Sports. He has an app on his phone to listen to the radio broadcasts for the three-time defending Big Sky champs on his cell phone. Although his playing days are over, he’s still proud to be a Bobcat.


bobcats named captains

Above: Montana State University center Jim Verlanic, left, stands with Bobby Daly, Dane Fletcher and Jeff Hansen after being selected by teammates as the captains for the upcoming 2008 Big Sky Conference football season. All of the captains selected are from Montana.
Top: Verlanic, right, stands with the president of the Montana Chapter National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Bill Sprinkle, at the awards banquet last Saturday night. Verlanic, along with 11 other football players from Montana’s five high school classifications, five Frontier Conference schools and two State Universities. Courtesy photos


“The rise of the program is absolutely astounding,” Verlanic said. “It’s amazing to see that end-zone finally bowled in. It’s amazing to see how far the program has come. It’s just awesome to see those guys winning so much. I think it’s phenomenal. It’s really cool to see them get better and better. I couldn’t be more excited about the program and where it’s headed.”

Colter Nuanez is a freelance journalist living in Southwestern Montana. He is the senior writer for Bobcat Beat (bobcatnation.com), a website covering Montana State athletics. He can be reached at BobcatBeat56@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @Bobcat_Beat.




Dear Rainbows; get the funk out

Don’t be fooled by their promoted delusions of grandeur; the dirty hippies you see gallivanting through the streets of Anaconda, Butte and Deer Lodge within the last week aren’t spreading peace and love — they’re spreading disease and vagrancy.

While the Rainbow Party was founded on the belief of traditionalists living off the land based on Native American ways of life, that typically isn’t the case with this yearly gathering.

According to their Web site, “Some say we’re the largest non-organization of non-members in the world. We have no leaders, and no organization. To be honest, the Rainbow Family means different things to different people. I think it’s safe to say we’re into intentional community building, non-violence, and alternative lifestyles. We also believe that Peace and Love are a great thing, and there isn’t enough of that in this world. Many of our traditions are based on Native American traditions, and we have a strong orientation to take care of the the Earth. We gather in the National Forests yearly to pray for peace on this planet.”

But I’ve witnessed first hand what type of carnage these dirtbags leave. They strip the land of all its natural resources, then move on to the public sector to do the same. Throughout the summer, we will see more and more of the Rainbows clad in tie dyed shirts, corduroy pants and no shoes. And the longer they stay, the more they will do whatever necessary to access food and drinks — especially steal.

Now, pigeonholing all of the hippies into the stereotype of the Rainbows may not be fair, but nor is life. Living a normal life only to escape once a year to attend this gathering is no different than you and I taking a family vacation. However, I doubt you or I would travel to where upwards of 25,000 people gathered — 80 percent of whom were there because they choose not to work or bathe to instead live under the umbrella of what this so-called lifestyle grants you.

For the most part, the Rainbows are a disease waiting to be spread. Once the members with money and resources have gone, that’s when the granolas find more public settings in order to scrounge. And that’s when Anaconda will get bombarded. They’ll wash your windows, sweep your sidewalks or even possibly do odd jobs, but mostly the congregation would rather loiter and hold a cup out for their next pack of cigarettes while the family dog starves. And as soon as you pay one, they’ll multiply. Have you ever been on the border in Tijuana and handed the little shoeless kid a dollar pedaling Chicklets? What happens next is 50 more like him are pulling at your pants to get some as well. And just like the panhandlers here, the second you don’t pay that’s when the trouble begins to surface. In fact, don’t be surprised if you wake up one morning and a handful of them are running around in your sprinkler.


In 2000, the Rainbow Gathering was in the Big Hole near Dillon, and all they did was leave rubble in their wake. Sure, if you look on their Web site you see random letters of appreciation from anonymous-at-best sources, however there is no mention from groups and populations who have had to deal with the infestation of these people.

I worked as a beer delivery driver for Summit Beverage at that time, and trying to protect our property became just as much work as delivering to the customer. In fact, a former Pepsi driver lost a whole pallet — thousands of dollars worth of product — during the gathering when he forgot to lock his truck while he was merchandising the delivery inside the store. The Safeway, McDonald’s and Town Pump in Dillon was always surrounded by these broke, begging bums, ones who destroyed their public restrooms and inhabited the shade their business provides its customers.

Before you get all spiritual on me, let’s get one thing straight. These are not your grandfather’s hippies — the ones you’ve read about from the 60s and 70s, people who gathered at Woodstock or you’re local folk and freedom festivals, or ones who, even for a short amount of time, lived the “alternative” lifestyle. If you remember when they tried to reenact Woodstock, it was overrun by poser hippies. In fact, that’s what the majority of this group is now. They are worthless bums, living off of the next handout because the lives that you and I strive to exist in is too tough for them to accomplish. Instead of holding down a job, these dirtbags beg for handouts. Instead of grinding through the rigors of raising a family — one that your community can be proud of — these heathens populate the earth with illegitimate children and disease, things you and I usually end up paying for anyway.

Many of you want to head up to Racetrack to view what this gathering is all about. Some would even like to partake in it. But I’m begging the kids around here to stay away. The Rainbows are a filthy bunch of non-conformants who will do anything and everything within their power to survive. And often times, that means using you as a host.

They pass their wives around for a drink of brandy, even ship their children off into lives of being nothing more than social malcontents. And all because these scriptures of Native Americans tell them to do so.

Somewhere along the way, this group has been hijacked by the new hippie — a downtrodden individual too lazy to conform, and one who has learned to tug on the heartstrings of the American public. And forget the thoughts of them being peaceful. They are a dangerous group of scumbags who are eager to multiply and desperate to find new “hosts” to further their cause of debauchery.

And just wait. Alive After Five, Goosetown and Art in the Park will be a breeding ground for these people. Music festivals are akin to cupcakes and fat kids for the hippies, and just wait until they have to pay for entrance or camping fees in a public park. There’s going to be trouble, and I doubt our police force is capable of handling such a number of knuckle draggers all at once.

That’s why I’ve requested thousands of Butte’s Montana Folk Festival posters to be delivered to the Rainbows. With some crafty signage, maybe we can get them to congregate at the Berkley Pit just in time for us to bury it.

It may not get rid of all of em, but every little bit helps. But then again, they’re in Butte. They’ll like it there.