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Tournament planning days over

Just the other day, I heard a voice boom out in my direction from across the street in Houghton.

It was a familiar voice — but one I hadn’t heard for many years. The voice was that of a former softball opponent, going all the way back to the 1970s.

“What we need right now is another big slow-pitch tournament,” he said. “The kind we had back in the old days.”

While he had a reasonable point, starting a new tournament in these troubled times is not feasible.

For one thing, we would have to enforce the safety limits that surely would be there.

For another, we wouldn’t have the sufficient number of teams needed for such a happening.

I used to be on the tournament committee that ran the Karvakko’s Invitational for more than 20 years.

Heeding the sage advice of the late Bill Anttila of Mass (who ably coordinated the Tige’s Tourney), I didn’t charge into the tourney business right away.

Anttila, an old Suomi College friend, said there were two key things to get the job done: 1. Make sure you had good help and; 2. Make sure you line up enough — of the right — teams for a large event.

I was quick to make sure I had good help, enlisting Tom Heikkinen and the late Keith Karsama to split the many duties with me. That included concessions, field crew, etc.

Getting enough quality teams to such an event was my main chore …. and it wasn’t easy.

Even though there were as many as 30 teams in the C.C. League at one time, not all were willing to enter into a very competitive event.

But there was a very strong league in Ontonagon County at the time, and they were more than willing to come over and display their skills.

We added some teams from around the Upper Peninsula and were also fortunate to get a couple of powerhouse teams from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

By 1977, we had a 28-team field that had enough drawing power to attract an estimated 5,000 spectators on championship Sunday.

That crowd made Tapiola the fourth-largest town (for one day) in the county.

The tourney gradually grew smaller as interest in slow-pitch waned. And the last event, held in 2008, was down to just eight teams.

So could it be done again? No.

For one big reason, there aren’t enough teams in the region to fill a tourney. Ontonagon County no longer has a slow-pitch league and the Houghton County league is down to 8-10 teams.

Even if there was enough interest, this former tournament director is now a great-grandfather and doesn’t have near the energy to tackle such a complicated venture ….

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