By Jo Galloway

Leeds Softball Association hosted the Umpire Strikes Back Inaugural First Ball tournament on May 4th, a one day recreational charity tournament, raising £700 for Leeds Mind.

An overcast but dry day opened at 9am with eight teams from Leeds, York, Manchester and the East Midlands joining us at the Adel War Memorial Association sports grounds in north Leeds. This was a one day recreational charity tournament, raising £700 for Leeds Mind through a well supported raffle, a system of dark side and light side jokers that could be purchased from the umpires, and a fancy dress space themed party in the evening. Throughout the day, great plays were played, and occasionally overturned by a joker, and some of it in fancy dress too! We would especially like to thank the Softball Shop, BaseballSoftballUK and anyone else who donated prizes to the raffle, especially our President’s mum Eileen Handby, who lovingly crocheted over a dozen Star Wars characters that were totally adorable and immensely popular. We would also like to thank Abbie de Zwart amongst others who stepped in to take some epic pictures when our photographer got covid, much appreciated!

An initial 3 game round robin saw no draws, with Freeze (Manchester) topping group A and The York Wall (an alumnus team from the University of York) topping Group B. Judicious (and not so well thought out) plays of jokers messed up score sheets and added an extra level of spice to the proceedings. Limited to one per inning, team captains had to pick their moment well, and hope the opposition weren’t able to “uno-reverso” their masterstroke. All games were played in good spirits, and the tournament was a great opportunity for rookie and rec players to enjoy a fun, friendly one day tournament. Our three tournament MVPs were awarded a crocheted Star Wars character of their choice. These MVPs were Josie Banks (Hippos), Theo Holland (The York Wall), and Laurie Salfred-Ingham (Freeze).

After the round robin, the top teams played for the Empire Trophy (a Star Destroyer) and the lower teams for the Rebellion Cup (a Millenium Falcon). The Hippos, supported by a cast of Coyotes, represented Leeds in the Rebellion Cup Final against the B-sides, representing the East Midlands league. Hippos were victorious 11-6 against B-sides, bringing home their first ever silverware, congratulations Hippos! Freeze from Manchester faced off against the Yorkshire Dales from Leeds for the Empire Trophy. Probably the only game of the day played without jokers by mutual agreement of the captains, Freeze got off to a great start, establishing a lead in their first innings that the Dales weren’t able to catch up to. Freeze were victorious 12-5, finishing the day 5-0, and securing the Star Destroyer Trophy as champions of the First Firstball in Leeds.

We hope to do this again next year, and would love to see you all there again. May the Fourth be with you!