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Springville's snowshoe softball tournament-goers chill out for a good cause

GREAT JOB — Unlike last year, there was snow aplenty, for the 2013 snowshoe softball tournament, held in Springville on Jan. 26. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — Between November and March, the weather dictates what most Western New Yorkers do or where they travel.

Although snowfall is the norm, during WNY winters, many people hunker down and avoid going out, preferring to hibernate, until spring.

Instead of riding out the winter, East Concord resident and Boys & Girls Board Member John Nesselbush came up with an idea to utilize the abundant snow to benefit the community.

HAVING A BALL — Springville snowshoe softball tournament founders John and Susie Nesselbush hang out together, during the Jan. 26 event.
In 2003, Nesselbush and his wife Susie introduced the idea of holding a snowshoe softball tournament in the village of Springville, to benefit the local Boys & Girls Club.

“When I lived out in Washington state, I was in the [United States] Navy,” John Nesselbush said. My wife and I played on a co-ed softball team. We heard of this tournament they held up in the mountains in Winthrop, Wash., and we were intrigued by it, so we did some research on it and it looked really fun.”

Nesselbush said that, while he and his wife were never able to play in that tournament, “we read about it and, when we moved back here, I became a part of the board of directors at the [Springville] Boys & Girls Club. We were just looking for fundraisers and some ideas, so I just said, ‘Hey, we always have snow, so why don’t we have a snowshoe softball tournament and make that a fundraiser?’”

Joined by other members of the Springville Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors, Nesselbush invited local businesses to get create teams to compete with. He said that many tournament organizers recruit their coworkers, to participate in the event.

BATTER UP — A tournament participant swings at the ball, during the snowshoe softball event held in the village on Jan. 26.
This year’s tournament was held on Jan. 26 at the Concord Community Baseball Park on North Buffalo Road in Springville. This marked the 11th tournament year. Last year’s event was canceled, due to a lack of snow.

According to the Springville event organizers, this snowshoe softball tournament is the fourth-longest-running tournament of its kind, in the country.

WE'RE NO. 1 — Returning champion team Julie's Pizzeria again won the softball tournament and was named overall victor.
Julie’s Pizzeria defended its title and won the championship, again. The team will once again display the snowshoe softball trophy above the Julie’s Pizzeria checkout counter.

The tournament included teams sponsored by Emerling Ford, Horschel Brothers Precision, CH2M HILL: B&W West Valley, Applus+ RTD, Cheap Chollies and Straightline Mason Contracting.

Individual players were sponsored by M&T Bank, Ilio DiPaolo’s, McDonald’s of Springville, Marg Chapman, Molly Frank, Debbie Randall and Mike Basehart.

Daniel Toledo, a resident of Colorado who was visiting family in Springville, experienced his first taste of snowshoe softball, during the tournament. “It’s incredible, how everyone is out here to have a good time,” he said. “You hear no bad mouthing [and] you see no trace of hostility anywhere. Everyone is all smiles. It’s just a great community and I’m definitely happy to be here.”

I’M GOING HOME — A softball player runs for home base, during the snowshoe softball tournament.
Organizers estimated that the event raised approximately $7,000 for the Boys & Girls Club. Paul Syracuse of the Horschel Brothers Precision team won the home run derby, by smashing five, over the fence, and donated his winnings back to the club.

“I’ve been here for 11 years and I wouldn’t miss it,” said Carl Emerling, about the tournament. “I can still play first base and I don’t have to run much. It’s just a great time; it’s the only snowshoe softball tournament in Western New York. It’s just so unique.”

Teams showed up at 7:30 a.m., bundled up in snow gear, to take in the afternoon. Intertwined in the tournament activities was a silent auction that netted nearly $900, with donations’ coming from local businesses and individuals, including M&T Bank, Eric and Denise Lawton, Holiday Valley, Julie’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, Delta Sonic, Pit Stop Pizza, Cheap Chollies, Colden Ski & Board, Wal-Mart, the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres, the Buffalo Bisons, Flexovit USA, Tops Friendly Markets, Jack and Chris Gerber and Sysco.

Basehart, assistant executive director of the Springville Boys & Girls Club, thanked Dave Batterson of Springville Door & Window, the town of Concord, the town of Concord Highway and Parks Department, Joe Krzemien, Tim Hortons of Springville, Bill Dickinson, Deb Randall, David Graves, Chapman, Frank, Kevin Georger, Deb Ott, Chris Gerber, the Nesselbush family, Emerling and Steve and Lily Vanuga, for their assistance, with the tournament.

“After working this event, I can really appreciate the work of John and Susie Nesselbush, who started this fundraiser for the club,” Basehart said.

“They set the stage for making this a premier outdoor event for Springville and brought much-needed funds to the club. Linda Connors and Lisa Schurr followed John and Susie and continued doing a fantastic job, growing the event.”

The assistant director added that the revenue raised from this event will support a wide range of youth programs at the new clubhouse on Maple Avenue, including dance, crafts, fitness and tutoring. That facility is currently open Monday – Friday from 2:30 – 6 p.m. for students in grades four – 12.

Not only did the event raise money for the club in Springville, it also helped to pay for after-school, licensed programs at the Springville and Colden elementary schools.

Basehart said that the Boys & Girls Club programs “build character, self-confidence and a positive outlook, in the youth of our neighboring communities. Programs include aspects of character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts and sports, fitness and recreation, through participation in a variety of positive activities for school-age children.”

Kids’ attending the Maple Avenue site participate in fitness challenges and utilize the Springville-Griffith Community Education Foundation Learning Center for homework assistance and computer activities.

“It’s excellent to be out here in this great community,” said Springville-GI senior Bill Dickinson, who volunteered his time as an umpire, at the tournament. It’s a lot of fun to be with everybody in this small community, playing ball and enjoying ourselves together. It’s just a very fun-loving event on the weekend, to meet and greet with a lot of locals, in a very unique event for a good cause.”

West Valley School Superintendent Eric Lawton, whose son is enrolled in the Springville-GI School District, attended the event. His son, Will Lawton, was the recipient of the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year Award, in 2009.

“I just love how different it is,” Eric Lawton said. “You’re just not used to running in snowshoes and trying to catch a ball at the same time. We got blessed with some great weather and, when you mix in that we’re doing it for a great cause, it’s one of the best days of the year, for me.”

DOWN HE GOES — A member of the Julie’s Pizzeria team attempts to get up, after a fall.
Organizers said that they are considering expanding next year’s tournament to 20 teams and will continue this Springville tradition.


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