KINGMAN - It's long-ball time again as the Kingman Daily Miner's 28th Annual Fence Buster tournament takes over the softball fields at Centennial Park Saturday and Sunday.
The Fence Buster was the brainchild of the Miner's former publisher, Herb Gollis, and former sports editor Keith Schmidt in 1982 when Centennial Park was still almost brand new.
"I do recall my publisher mentioning we should start one," Schmidt said in an e-mail from his home in West Bend, Wis. "Things just fell into place from there on."
Schmidt called it "a great infrastructure" when the Kingman Umpires Association, the Centennial Park staff and softball people such as Zeke Mesa, Carmen Giglio and Gary Dykman joined forces to put together a bigger and somewhat different tournament to feed the hunger of the softball devotees in Kingman.
A key ingredient of the Fence Buster that has lasted over the years is the Home Run Derby. Schmidt said the idea for the derby came to him because Field No. 4 at Centennial Park has a shorter fence designed for Little League play.
"The Fence Buster name grew out of the fact a lot of people thought the Centennial fences were rather close to home plate," Schmidt said.
The early success of the Fence Buster was due to support of local businesses and the diligent efforts from the tournament workers who volunteered their time. Schmidt recalled that Naithalene Suathojame of the Miner was a dynamite worker for the tournament.
"Zeke and Carmen set up umpiring schedules," Schmidt said. "They did a yeoman's job helping with the bracketing and the like."
The ready pool of local teams along with Centennial Park's facilities, the Home Run Derby and the well-oiled staff of tournament workers are reasons Schmidt says the Fence Buster has survived throughout the years.
The tournament draws teams from throughout Arizona, Nevada and California. The emergence of Centennial as a top-rated softball complex has also landed Kingman opportunities to hold United States Specialty Sports Association and Arizona Softball Association tournaments, as well.
"This all only helped to stoke the fires of softball lunacy in Kingman," Schmidt said. "It all assured the Kingman voters that taking a raise in taxes paid off at the beautiful park. To that end, I will always be grateful to the taxpayers."
Hills Bros., a local auto dealer, won the inaugural Fence Buster when it came through the loser's bracket to knock off Sundowner Lounge 28-6 and 25-4 for the 1982 championship. Sundowner had put Hills Bros. into the loser's bracket with a 12-8 win when the two teams were the last to stand in the winner's bracket.
The 2009 version of Fence Buster will feature two tournaments, one with a D Division bracket, the other a Rec Division bracket. Reigning champion Phoenix Ground Zero is scheduled to defend its crown in the D Division.
The power hitting action will start at 9 a.m., with four Recreation Division games and one D-Division contest. In the Recreation Division, it will be Tu Sabes vs. Budweiser, Mike's 12 Pack vs. Up Rising, Team FB vs. Sarua's Crew and Sponsorless vs. Chris' Auto Body.
USMC will meet the winner of Mike's-Up Rising, Campbell's Crew will play the Team FB-Sarua's Crew winner and Ruff Necks will face the Sponsorless-Chris' Auto Body victor.
BJ's Bar takes on Crush to open the D-Division bracket, followed by the 10:15 games of Ridgeview Dental vs. Perez Performance, Sundance Roofing vs. It's Gonna Happen and Hi Liter vs. Ground Zero.
The championship rounds begin at 12:45 p.m. Sunday.
"I hope the 2009 version is another fence-busting hit!" Schmidt said.
Proceeds from the tournament go to improvements of the Centennial Park softball complex. More than $2,400 raised last year went to shade dugouts and add safety netting to the fields.
Fence Buster is an ASA qualifying tournament, with the winning teams moving on to another regional tournament.