WILLIAMSBURG—In 1990, Frank Rachubka organized his first softball tournament in greater Williamsburg, attracting 11 teams to the Historic Triangle.
Next week, that number will increase 10-fold when greater Williamsburg hosts the National Softball Association Class B Eastern World Series Youth Fast Pitch tournament in the area.
“It’s my understanding, this is supposed to be the largest sporting event in the history of the area,” Rachubka said in an interview Monday. “We do about six or seven a year and they range from 30 to 90 teams. Our largest one, The Busch Gardens Classic, usually attracts nearly 100 teams.”
Rachubka has worked closely with Sports Williamsburg, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance and localities in James City, York and the city of Williamsburg to secure venues for the event.
“We’re very excited to be hosting this national event,” said Lisa Pacheco, director of conference sales and sports for the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance. “This is great exposure for our destination. The town is going to be busy.”
Pacheco estimates that the economic impact from the NSA World Series could exceed $3 million in revenue to the area. Last fall, Football University’s Top Gun three-day camp brought in approximately $2 million for its week-long showcase of elite football players from across the country.
“We have 3,000 athletes and their families stay in our destination for a week,” Pacheco said of the softball tournament. “Football University was held in one location with approximately 800 to 1,000 athletes. This tournament has significantly more athletes attending and staying for a longer duration of time.”
Rachubka, who thinks this tournament could attract as many as 10,000 people to the area, agrees. “The exposure to the area and the economic impact is huge,” he said. “One thing different about girls sports than boys sports are: Girls spend money. They’re going to go to New Town and restaurants and the outlets.”
Williamsburg Starz 14U coach Bill McClure is no stranger to high-profile tournaments like this, including last year’s NSA Class A World Series in Spartanburg, S.C.
“After playing in South Carolina last year, Williamsburg will be a great destination for these teams because of all the wonderful things this area offers,” McClure said. “South Carolina had beautiful fields, but we found little to do to take our minds off softball. When we traveled last year, we spent approximately $12,000 on rooms and food.”
Rachubka said, “It’s a real coup that Williamsburg was able to get this and host this. Historically, these events are usually in Charlotte and other (larger) places. I’m really excited.”
The tournament will feature 10-and-under to 18-and-under teams, will be spread out over many jurisdictions throughout the Historic Triangle. Games will be played at Quarterpath Recreation Center, Kiwanis Park, James Blair, James City County Recreation Center, Warhill District Park, York County Sports Complex and Chisman Creek.
“This is the largest event in multiple locations we have ever hosted,” Pacheco said. “Every field, with the exception of school fields, in Williamsburg, James City County and York County will be used for the World Series tournament.”
“We’ve never tried before to get this tournament before because we didn’t think we had the facilities to run it,” Rachubka said. “But now with Kiwanis Park completed, we feel that we have the venues needed. This would’ve never been possible without the support of the three local governments and the chamber all working together.”
There will be plenty of local squads participating in next week’s tournament, including squads from the Williamsburg Starz, Bay Rivers Rumble and the James River Rage.
Mike Morinec, manager of the Bay Rivers Rumble 12U team, said his team has been building for this event since last summer.
“When we formed our team last August, it was to prepare for and play in this tournament, “ he said. “One of our (Army) families was able to delay their move to Hawaii in order to allow their daughter the opportunity to play in this World Series.”
“Having won the Virginia 12U B state championship has put the hometown target on us,” Morinec added. “But our girls are up to the challenge and we look forward to a fabulous week of softball.”
Madi Maharty, Arianna Reynolds and Tara McClure are members of the Starz 14U team and can’t wait for the tournament to start.
“I have played in a national tournament once before, last year in South Carolina. It was an awesome experience,” Reynolds explained. “My expectations are quite high. There are many teams coming out and they all want to win — just like us.”
“It means so much for me to be playing in this tournament,” said Tara McClure. “This whole tournament seems like such a great experience and so much fun. I just can’t wait for it to start.”
For Maharty, who is only in her second season of travel ball, this is unchartered waters. “Playing in the national tournament with my amazing team feels unreal to me,” she said. “My expectations are to just have fun with my team, play our hearts out and hopefully take home a championship title.”