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.
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.