An annual mid-summer tradition returns to Lincoln Park this weekend.
Kenosha’s own “Mid-Summer Classic,” the Rotary Club of Kenosha West Softball Tournament, will fill the diamonds at Lincoln Park, 6900 18th Ave., from Friday through Sunday (July 14-16). This year marks the 51st edition of the Rotary Softball Tournament.
Per usual, this year’s tournament features a double-elimination format. It will include three divisions, a Men’s Division, a Co-ed Division and a Women’s Division.
The Men’s Division includes 19 teams and will be played from Friday through Sunday, the Co-ed Division includes nine teams and will be played on Saturday and Sunday and the Women’s Division includes four teams and this year will be played entirely on Saturday.
The times for the championship rounds always vary, depending on several factors, but the Women’s Division championship round is scheduled for approximately 6 p.m. Saturday on Lincoln Diamond No. 4. The Men’s Division championship round is set to begin between 3 and 5 p.m. Sunday on Lincoln No. 1, with the Co-ed Division championship round following the Men’s Division championship on Sunday, also on Lincoln No. 1.
Rotary President Christian Venegas said the field of 32 teams overall, in three divisions, should make for a great tournament.
“We’ll have a well-rounded amount of different competition,” Venegas said. “I am happy with the numbers.”
It’s no secret, of course, that this is not the Rotary Softball Tournament of yesteryear, when Kenosha softball was really booming and the brackets would be bursting with teams and players from the highly competitive city league.
There is no city league anymore, as the top players travel around these days, but Venegas feels the Rotary Club of Kenosha West has still been able to create a strong tournament by opening up entries to teams from outside Kenosha and offering good prize money. The first-place payouts are $2,000 for the Men’s Division and $1,000 for the Co-ed and Women’s Divisions.
“We’re pulling teams from Crystal Lake, Illinois, Waukegan (Ill.), we’re pulling a Women’s team from Milwaukee, a Co-ed team from Wausau, or up near Fond du Lac,” Venegas said.
Venegas also said the Rotary Club of Kenosha West makes an effort to keep the competition as level as possible. It can be a fine line between admitting “superstar” travel teams that will dominate the competition, but you also don’t want to keep out some of the top names from Kenosha, especially considering the legacy of the tournament.
“We try to keep some of those big, major teams out,” Venegas said. “But there are guys that, obviously in Kenosha, have competed over the years at a high level that still want to play in the tournament. Some of their parents have been (Kenosha Softball) Hall of Famers, family members have been Hall of Famers.
“So we try to keep it as ‘Kenosha tradition’ as possible. … I want it to be competitive, I want it to be fun. I reiterate to them when we have communication: ‘It’s a charitable event.’”
And that, at the end of the day, is the entire reason for the Rotary Softball Tournament, which is the Rotary Club of Kenosha West’s biggest charity fundraiser of the year. All tournament proceeds are donated back to the community in the form of nonprofit grants.
Last year, Venegas said, the club raised about $25,000 from the Rotary Softball Tournament. The week after this year’s tournament, the club will host a luncheon in which it will officially put that $25,000 back into the community. The money raised from this year’s tournament will then be put back into the community in 2024.
“Whatever we make, the following year we give,” Venegas said.
As always, the public is welcome to attend the Rotary Softball Tournament. Admission is free, and concessions and beverages – including ice-cold beer – will be available at the Lincoln Park Pavilion. Venegas said there will also be some clothing vendors at the tournament showcasing sports apparel.
Hall of Fame induction
Additionally, the Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame, located at the Lincoln Park Pavilion, will hold its annual induction ceremony on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
This year’s inductees are Cindy Rosko and Joy Day-Mueller for women; Bob Arneson, Tito Gonzalez, Rich Rosko, Ron Schuler, Craig Stewart and Carmen Vite for men; Dale Horton and Jim Schweitzer in the fast-pitch division; Bob Hale as an umpire; Coins as a sponsor; and Greg Feivor as a contributor.