Some call them “The Boys of Summer”—the historic and traditional name for ballplayers, professional, semi-professional and amateur—who scramble onto baseball diamonds across the nation.
But in Prescott, change it to “Boys and Girls, Men and Women of Summer”—all ages, sizes and abilities. What’s more, they come from all over the country to play in what the City of Prescott proudly boasts “The Softball Capital of Arizona.”
Joe Baynes, director of Recreation Services for City of Prescott, says that for generations—almost since the community was founded in 1864 by early frontiersmen – miners, ranchers, cowboys (and some say, a few outlaws), have swung bats and rounded bases. Those early settlers brought what was initially called baseball into the community after the Civil War. Over the years, it morphed into softball because more and more people –youth, men and women— played it as an entertaining sport and recreation.
Baynes also says softball is such an integral part of Prescott’s summer culture, that every day, from morning until often late evening, fields throughout the city are used by hundreds of ballplayers.
Baynes credits City of Prescott Recreation Supervisor Rick Hormann and his talented team with recently having propelled Prescott into the national softball spotlight.
“These past few years we’ve seen hundreds of teams and thousands of ballplayers come to Prescott,” he said. “They come from all over the country. It’s because our Recreation Services crew dedicates its efforts to making this the best softball venue in the country.”
The city is proud of its 12 immaculately groomed and well-lit fields scattered across the community. Additionally, when needed, the city contracts with local schools and communities for additional facilities. Baynes boast that the grounds and maintenance crews prepare what are probably the best ball fields in Arizona.
An example of how popular Prescott is in the big scheme of things is that in 2008, the community was selected by the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team for an exhibition game as a part of its “Bound for Bejing”national tour. That team, led by Jenny Finch, the All-American pitcher from the University of Arizona, went on to win the 2008 Olympics.
The softball season starts in May and doesn’t end until September. During that five-month period, cars, vans and busses from throughout the U.S. find their way to “Everybody’s Hometown.”
Just locally, more than 140 teams –male, female and mixed—play in City League games. “It’s surprising for most people to realize that we have more local softball teams in Prescott than any other city in Arizona—even Phoenix and Tucson. In fact, we’ve been told that we have more softball teams per capita than any other community in the United States,” Hormann said.
City Recreation Programs Go Far Beyond Softball
Hormann, who earned his degree in recreation management from Northern Arizona University and worked for several years in Folsom, California, before he moved to Prescott, brags that Prescott and the Quad-City area are perfect for summer recreation.
“Though we’re known nationally for softball, locals know that we offer many more recreational opportunities for our residents and visitors,” Hormann said. “We have youth and adult baseball, volleyball, youth football, soccer, basketball, bike racing, car shows—and more. In fact, this year, I think we’ve scheduled 33 sporting or recreational events from the end of March until mid-October.”
Hormann said he was really pleased that city-sponsored events included something for virtually everyone—male and female – youngsters, teens, adults and seniors.
“We’re lucky, too, because we’ve probably got the best, most moderate summer weather in Arizona right here in Prescott,” he said.
That’s what appeals to the hundreds of players and their families and fans who come to compete in various events. They stay in hotels throughout the area, eat in local restaurants, shop in local stores, and buy gas and other goodies in local service stations.
“Having that happen has major economic impact for everyone. But what’s really pleasing—when we get feedback from visitors who found everyone in the Quad-City areas to be so friendly and hospitable,” Hormann said.
Personnel at the Recreation Services Department track the local economic impact of its various summer programs. In 2016, the estimated economic impact of “Out of Town direct spending” was $2,162,100. Combined with estimated “Local Spending,” – $170,150 – the cumulative total was $2,332,250.
“We think everyone benefits from those dollars coming into our community—money which otherwise would not be here,” Hormann said.
Girls Fast Pitch Southwest World Series Debuts in Prescott
Even so, it’s still softball that resonates with so many. The fact is, Hormann said, Prescott’s reputation as a softball mecca led to the National Softball Association selecting Prescott to host the 2017 NSA Girls Fast Pitch Southwest World Series. That tournament will bring the best teams possible from Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and of course, Arizona, for a full week of championship play.
The double-elimination tournament will run from July 11-16 and take every field in the area, Hormann said.
“We really don’t know how many teams to expect, but we estimate a minimum of 40 to 50 of the top teams from those states. If we have more, that’s great. We’ll accommodate them,” he said.
The predicted economic impact on the greater community is of magnitude. The team’s impact—each with 14 girls and two coaches—plus their families and friends, will probably result in some $600,000 to $700,000.
“That’s a huge economic stimulus. It helps businesses employee a lot of people,” said Hormann. “In fact, I think it’s a home run for everyone.”