DALTON, Mass. -- The Dalton CRA Invitational Softball Tournament has grown four-fold in nine years, and there is one reason why.
"The biggest thing is just the volunteers," CRA Director of Recreation Dustin Belcher said. "I have an incredible committee of people who really give so much time and effort -- most of them do not have kids playing this weekend, but they've been here since their kids started, and they've kind of stuck it out.
"They've focused on all the other stuff so I can focus on recruiting and getting teams here."
It is a 15-person committee that helps Belcher stage the event, which got under way on Friday night and continues Saturday with 30 teams competing on four different venues: the Dalton American Legion Field, Chamberlain Park and Pine Gove Park.
At Pine Grove on Friday, it was an all-local lineup with games in two divisions.
In the 10-and-under age group, host Dalton played Adams-Cheshire Softball. In the 14U division, ACS took on the Berkshire Blaze and Dalton faced the Berkshire Force.
On Saturday morning, play continues with those two divisions plus the 12U and 16U classes. And the teams will include squads from throughout New York's Capital District.
"For the New York teams, it's playing different teams and having different opportunities," Belcher said. "And I think it's the same for the Berkshire County teams.
"Obviously, you sell the Berkshires, too, the beautiful Berkshires. People want to come check it out. We've had a lot of luck with the New York teams. We have a lot of New York teams out. In the past, we've had Keene, N.H., send down some teams. We've had Connecticut and Vermont."
Saturday's games mostly will complete pool play in the four divisions. On Sunday, it will be semi-finals and finals in the four age groups -- with the championship games all at Pine Grove starting at 1:30. In all, about 50 games are on the schedule from Friday night through mid-afternoon Sunday.
Keeping all those balls in the air is no easy task. In addition to the 15-person committee at the core of the tournament, Belcher said there will be almost 100 volunteers working in some capacity during the event.
In addition to providing competitive opportunities for the girls in uniform this weekend, the volunteers are helping to continue to build competitive softball in the town.
"Nine years ago, I was just taking over the high school team," Belcher said. "[The press box/concession stand at the varsity field] wasn't here, there was no batting cage, there was no scoreboard, and this field was not in great shape.
"We sat together and had a dream of what it would look like. It started out as a small tournament, but this tournament has been the major fund-raiser to make all of this happen as well as incredible contributions from the community and volunteers."
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