Diamonds are a guy’s best friend.

“The softball tournament has been a part of Western Days for as long as I can remember. It brings in a lot of people to the community for the weekend who experience the celebration firsthand and interact with many other festivities outside of the softball tournament itself,” stated Erik Hilgren, Chatfield Western Days men’s softball tournament organizer. He added that he is excited to welcome guys of all ages to the ball diamond at Mill Creek Park during this year’s Western Days celebration.

Hilgren speculated that last year’s tournament drew approximately 15 teams, or about 150 players.

“There are ten players on the field at once, but a team can have up to 11 hitters in the batting order. The 11th player just hits and does not play a position in the field. This year, I am hoping to have 24 teams in the tournament,” Hilgren said. “Usually, it draws a few spectators as well, which is great. There are usually a few local Chatfield teams, but many come from all over southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and once in a while, from even further. There is no set age limit on the tournament, however, usually players are 18 years or older. It is great to see younger teams playing and keeping the sport alive.”

The tournament will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, and end Sunday evening, Aug. 13.

“Games will be played Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday,” Hilgren explained. “The tournament is double-elimination. This gives every team a chance to win the tournament even after they lose one game. Once a team loses two games, they will be out of the tournament. We will have a lose-lose bracket – often known as the ‘toilet bowl’ – for teams that lose their first two games. This guarantees that every team will play at least three games. We will be playing, rain or shine. That being said, we do have to take into account safety, which will be under the judgment of the umpires.”

Players will be competing for prizes for their teams. The tournament will pay out to the first five places. “The final payouts will be figured out once we know more about the cost of umpires, field fees and more,” Hilgren said. “First place will be over $1,000 for sure, and it will be less for each place following. There will also be a much lesser prize for the winner of the toilet bowl.”

Hilgren commented, “Slow pitch softball is a great way to interact with lots of great dudes who love the ball field. Though this is a competition to see who is the best team, it’s really about bringing the whole softball community together to have fun and play ball.”

He continued, “This is my first year organizing the tournament. I have been playing competitive slow pitch softball for five years now and have experienced many different formats and rules at tournaments. The organization of this tournament is based on the best rules and setups I have ever seen over the course of my softball career. I am really excited for the experience. I love the game of softball, and organizing a softball event is exciting. I’m learning along the way what works and what doesn’t. I am even more excited to see the turnout at the event itself and just to see all of these ball players having fun.”

He admitted that while the ball diamond may be filled with people who look like they’re exercising, there’s more to it. “Softball isn’t exactly the best source of exercise, as players often drink beer before and after games, but it is a great opportunity to hang out with friends and have a good time.”

Hilgren invited the public to take a seat in the bleachers and keep an eye out for some possible base-running action. “This is a chance to see some awesome softball players showcase their skills. There will be lot of social interaction, food and beverages, and hopefully a softball company selling gear. This event is going to be a blast – awesome softball, awesome players and awesome atmosphere. I hope to make the Western Days softball tournament into one of the best slow pitch softball tournaments in the area.”

Anyone interested in entering a team in the Western Days men’s softball tournament may do so by contacting Erik Hilgren at 507-251-6742 or emailing him at riderofsnow@yahoo.com. Cost per team entry is $200.

“Also, I would like to encourage all to ‘like’ the Western Days softball tournament Facebook page at m.facebook.com/WesternDaysSoftball/,” Hilgren concluded.