(Courtesy photo) USA Softball of Michigan Hall of Fame pitcher Pete Loachridge, left, offers pitching instruction to Reese Rockies player Austin Pfund on opening day of the Vassar Fastpitch Recreation League.

NAFA World Series swings into Vassar in late July

VASSAR

Mark the dates July 27-28 on your calendar.

That Saturday and Sunday are when the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series for boys’ teams in 21-and-under (1998), 18-U (2002), 16-U (2004) and 13-U (2006) will converge upon Vassar Memorial Park. If there is enough interest, games will be scheduled for younger age groups.

Considered the highlight of the local boys’ summer fastpitch schedule, the event is a mixture of local players and others from around the country competing in a tournament setting. The NAFA World Series at Vassar Memorial Park has a broad appeal as one of just a few like it still active around the country, and for that reason, is a key part of the USA Junior (18-under) Men’s National Team selection process.

The USJMNT coaching staff scouted the tournament in 2017, but was unable to attend last year due to its participation in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Junior Men’s World Championship in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada.

NAFA World Series tournament organizers anticipate USJMNT officials will be back in attendance this year due to having a less constricting schedule. The NAFA World Series remains an important developmental tool for the USJMNT program.

(courtesy photo) Reese’s Wes Andrus, left, threw out the first pitch for this year’s Vassar Fastpitch Recreation League. Also pictured is Richville coach Don Petro, who is one of the organizers for the NAFA World Series that’s slated for Saturday and Sunday, July 27-28, at Vassar Memorial Park.

Wood bats won’t be required for this year’s NAFA World Series, as the event will look to showcase the players hoping to be considered for the 2021 US Men’s 23-U team in addition to the 2020 Junior National Team.

The USJMNT coaching staff hasn’t yet finalized plans to have a pitching clinic coincide with the NAFA World Series, but was working toward that goal leading up to the dates of the event. USJMNT officials will then need to schedule a camp or tryout in the days following the NAFA World Series to finalize the team’s 2020 roster.

“A good number of their kids they’ll be looking at will be in our tournament,” said Don Petro, one of the NAFA World Series organizers along with Corey Haubenstricker. “We’ve had a number of area kids the last several cycles that have made the (US Junior Men’s National) team.

“Even if you don’t make the team, just being considered is an honor,” he added. “You’re playing with and against some of the best players in the country, and if they’re looking at you, they must see something substantial.”

Planning for this year’s edition of the NAFA World Series in Vassar is still ongoing, with Friends of Fastpitch local supporters having recently met to look to further the group’s agenda.

The NAFA World Series will include players from the Thumb Travel League and the Vassar Recreation League. The Thumb Travel League plays its games in Frankenmuth, Auburn and Munger, while the Vassar Recreation League plays its games in Vassar, Reese and Munger.

The five-team Vassar Recreation League is developmental in nature, while the six-team Thumb Travel League is for more established players.

In addition to his organizational role with the Vassar Recreation League, Petro is also one of its coaches, for Richville. He assembles a team each year to compete at the state tournament, which makes for a great way to measure the strides those players have taken since beginning with the developmental program.

On June 27, the Thumb All-Stars and Richville split a doubleheader, with Kenton Gleason pitching the All-Stars to an 11-2 win in the opener and Evan Loachridge pitching Richville to a 15-3 win of the nightcap.

June 18 opening-night action for the Vassar Recreation League saw Munger and the Thumb All-Stars split in Vassar, with the All-Stars winning the first game 4-3 and Munger winning the nightcap 13-11. In Reese, Richville earned a season-opening sweep of the Reese Rockies, winning 15-1 and 18-14.

The Vassar Recreation League is always looking to add players, and its doubleheaders are played starting at 6:30 p.m. Harris & Company will take on the Thumb All-Stars on Tuesday, July 9 in Vassar, the Rockies and All-Stars will play on Thursday, July 9 in Vassar while Munger will host Harris & Company on the same day, Harris & Company will face the Rockies on Tuesday, July 16 in Vassar and Munger takes on Richville the same day in Reese. The league tournament will begin on Tuesday, July 23 and wrap up with the championship game scheduled for Thursday, July 25.

For more information or to join, contact Petro at 989-297-1704.

Adam Smith is sports editor for The Advertiser and can be reached at sports@tcadvertiser.com.

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