108th men, women bring home softball honors

  • Published
  • By retired Col. Robert Doolittle
During the dog days of summer, many members of the 108th ARW traveled to sweltering Sioux Falls, S.D., for the 44th Annual Air National Guard Softball tournament. The 108th entered three teams this year, a Men's Open, a Women's Open and a Coed Team and achieved success in all three areas. On the fields for the 108th were 30 wing members: from virtually every flight and squadron; from airman to captain; and one retiree and two family members.

The 108th enjoys a reputation for having very strong men's team year in and out and this year was no exception. Led by player/manager Senior Master Sgt. Mike Balas, the men's team put on an offensive display that was reminiscent of the shock and awe days of yesteryear. After battling though the loser's bracket to reach the championship game, the mighty 108th finally ran out of steam and succumbed to the Georgia ANG in a rain-soaked/mud-infested contest. Second place in the national tournament is a high achievement and the fearsome reputation of the 108th men is still intact.

The Coed team has seen a resurgence in recent years as the men have committed to the team's success and the women have significantly raised their game. In a field that saw teams from all over the country, the 108th Coed team battled to a very respectful fourth place finish. With a compliment of ten men and ten women, all players contributed to put forth a truly impressive display of talent, heart and camaraderie.

Lastly, the Jersey Girls of the 108th ARW have burst on the scene as the latest powerhouse to challenge for the championship trophy. Combining an influx of new blood with a smattering of seasoned veterans, the 108th ARW Women's team is now a true force of its own. With Capt. Sue Elderhorst taking the lead role in assembling and organizing the team, the Jersey Girls are now one of the most competitive teams in the tournament. This year saw the women's team become the first team to reach the championship game before eventually falling to the ladies from Ohio. Another outstanding second place finish for a 108th ARW team.

All successful endeavors require some type or support and assistance in order to achieve that success and these teams are no exception. Without the support of senior leadership and assistance from all the individuals that helped the team get to and from the event, none of these success stories would have been possible. This is truly a 108th team success story.

In August of 2010, the tournament will move to Panama City, Fla., as the Florida ANG again plays host. You can be sure the might bats of the 108th ARW will be in attendance once the competition begins. The Men's, Women's and Coed teams spend a lot of time preparing for the tournament, both on the field and through fund raising events to offset costs. They are also in a never-ending search for additional players that might help them achieve the ultimate prize. For those seasoned veterans, there is also the ability to enter an Over-35 Men's team should enough interested players come forward. If you are interested in joining these successful programs, contact Balas or Elderhorst for more information. The teams begin workouts and intramural play in the spring so get your cleats sharpened, gloves oiled, bats warmed up and join the fun.