Around the ball park at the NAFA World Series

Written by Bob on August 10th, 2017

Shortstop JACE HOLM of Watson’s Selects concentrates as a pitch is delivered to home plate during the opening night of the NAFA AA-Major World Series at Northside Softball Complex in Fargo, Aug. 9. Photo By BOB OTTO

FARGO, N.D. – Lot’s going on at Northside Softball Complex as the 2017 NAFA World Series begins it’s 12-day run from Aug. 9-20.

So last night at the AA-Major opener, I talked with a few folks about the game and what they thought while taking a trip around the ball park.

Jessica Kuchenmeister is about as energetic and enthused about men’s fastpitch as any person I’ve met in my 29 years covering this sport.

She’s the traveling secretary for the Rice Lake (WI) Orangemen. She filled me in on a few details about the Orangemens’ season.

“This year we wanted to step it up to the upper levels,” she said. “And we have built around these kids.”

These kids would be several from Argentina, including pitcher Nicolas Seibenlist and a roster nearly full of his Argentinian friends. The Orangemen have played in top-tier tournaments in the Midwest: The Jack Grafmeier in Kimberly, Wisc.; the Boys of Summer in Denmark, Wisc., and the Tin Cup Challenge in St. Paul, Minn.

Though no championships were won, Kuchenmeister said the Orangemen did win the consolation bracket at the Grafmeier, and that the team played well in all three tournaments.

The goal now is to win the AA-Major, and then pack up and head for the ISC World Tournament in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Orangemen are especially focused because they want to win one for their leader.

Ron Kopp has done a lot for the Orangemen and this sport,” Kuchenmeister said. “We want to win for him.”

GREG ALDER was on hand at the AA-Major. Though his Boise RiverDogs didn’t make the World Series this year, he and his son Shane are in Fargo, with Shane pitching and playing for the Desperado Sports Bar of Missoula, Mont.

The RiverDogs played in two tournaments, winning the Yakima, Wash. and Missoula, Mont. events.

He’s optimistic about the future of the RiverDogs and the efforts to revitalize the game in Boise.

“We’ve got a young team of former baseball players, most under 25, who love the game,” Greg Alder said. “We’ve got veterans Nick Bernard, 44, and Shane (Alder), 39, but the rest are all young.”

During the upcoming off season, Alder and his son Shane will be holding pitching clinics to get some of the young talent in the league to start throwing.

“We’ve got some young one’s who are excited to learn,” said Greg Alder.

A couple of young arms who have gotten off to a terrific start are Carson Crist, 25, and Sean Wardin, 24.

“Sean played college baseball and in his first (league) game won,” Alder said. “He has good velocity and is a great athlete, who is about 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds.

CLAIR AND PAT ANDERSON traveled to the World Series from their Hawley, Minn. home, just a half-hour drive. Clair played back in the 1960s and ’70s in the Twin City League that encompassed the cities of Fargo, West Fargo, and neighboring Moorhead, Minn.

Clair, who coaches high school girls’ softball in Hawley, liked the action taking place between Sommerside, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Braves from Oregon.

“I like the speed of fastpitch,” he said. “The pitchers have speed and it takes speed to play this game. I like the speed of the pitching; it’s just like back when I played.

Clair did notice one thing different about his era and the game played today: the pitching styles.

“They hop off the rubber and to the side,” he said. “Back when I played, you had to have two feet on the rubber and go straight forward.”

Things have changed, but in the final analysis, it’s the same grand old game.

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