Friendship, fellowship, fun: the Glenn Ward Tournament

The final out was recorded, a champion was crowned, the trophies presented and Tournament Chairman Doug Nelson gave a sigh of relief. The 31st annual Glenn Ward Memorial Co-Ed Softball Tournament was in the books.

Nelson, one of the founders and a veteran of all 31 tournaments could sit back for a moment and relax following another hectic threeday weekend. Visitors to the annual event see “Cheeseburger” at the scorer’s table, announcing players, conducting drawings and raffles, and enlivening the activities with impromptu bits of humor.

There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes however, a lot of planning, organizing and hard work by Nelson and the Crisfield Lions and Lioness-Lions clubs.

“The Lions name is out there for the good work we do,” Nelson said, and this is one of the longest running fundraisers of its kind in the area. He was exhausted that Sunday, Sept. 15, and thankful that he could go home and sit back the rest of the day. But he’ll be back next year, along with all the volunteers.

Never intended to be a competitive tournament

Nelson has seen a lot over the years. Rain outs, hurricanes, one year inclement weather washed out much of the Saturday games. They had to be made up on Sunday and the championship game ran into Monday morning. “I can handle that but there are some things that we have to keep emphasizing,” Nelson said. “It was never intended to be a competitive tournament.

“We’re here for one reason, to raise money for charity.”

Every now and then the same issues arise, a pitcher throwing too hard, complaints about umpires and tournament rules. It’s a co- ed format, at least 3 females on the field at all times and some special tournament rules are in effect. The first male batter of each inning must hit from his opposite side. If a male is walked preceding a female, she has the option to also claim a free ticket.

No stealing, no advancing

on a passed ball, each batter starts with a 1-1 count and baserunners are required to avoid collisions.

What keeps it going?

“Paula Todd conferred with me after the second year, saying that it might be getting too much for just a few of us to handle, can we get the Lions involved? We talked it over, but we stipulated that we didn’t want to do it without Glenn’s name. We surely didn’t think it would last this long,” Nelson said.

Thirty- one years creates a lot of memories but a lot of change too. Many of the original volunteers have passed away and age is creeping up on the current Lions members. “We’ve got some new blood in the club, like Bill Brown and Tim Frock. It gives us a little extra push, keeps us motivated.”

In 1986 Glenn Ward was the youngest County Commissioner elected in Somerset County. He passed away from cancer in December 1988 at age 29. Over half of the players weren’t even born then and know him only from this event. Twin sisters Emma and Hannah Lankford, juniors at Crisfield High School, are making their second appearance. Both are active in sports at CHS, they’re 3- sport athletes.

“I felt we did well although some of the rules made it tough,” Hannah said. “It really brings people together,” added Emma.

Bobby Dean Swift and Katelyn Hall Foster are two of the veterans. “I’ve played in all but one and I’ve played with all my children,” said Swift. “If I can last a few more years I’ll be able to play with my grandchildren.”

Foster, an outstanding athlete at CHS started when she was 14. “I love softball and it’s good people working for a good cause.”

Canteen workers Kathy Crockett, Beth Whitelock, Kim Swann and Donna Sterling summed it up quite satisfactorily. “The biggest thing we do, the greatest achievement is those we have helped,” said Sterling who played in the very first tournament. “It’s like Doug said, we might not cure all of them but we’ve made their lives better.”

The event has helped over 300 families over the years.

People like Melvin Higgs, Charles Wells, Chris Sterling and Dr. Bruce Ramsay have been invaluable along

with countless other volunteers, umpiring, working concessions, preparing the field and more. “It’s been 31 years of memories and we’ve raised over $240,000,” said Glenn’s brother, Keith.

Mrohs Gas swept through the bracket unbeaten, topping Bradshaw Funeral Home 12-5 in the title game, following a 5-4 win over Bradshaws in the winner’s bracket final.

Lower Shore Immediate Care took third place with Squirrel Entertainment finishing fourth.

Chris Sterling Accounting, Hoyt Harbor, Annemessex Plumbing & Heating and Bridgeville Scrapple also participated.

“It was a wonderful tournament, well attended and the weather was great,” said Glenn’s mother Argene. “Everybody was so friendly and having a good time.”

That’s what it’s all about!

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