The Power of
The Final Out?
By Ken Akers
In Ecclesiastes 3, the Bible says for everything there is a season. It’s been 27 years since the National Softball Tournament started. Originally sponsored by Randall House Publications in 1980, it fell under the direction of Master’s Men in 1990. Over the years, many players and teams have participated, with 40-plus teams participating at the tournament’s highest point.
Many of the men who played during those early years are now close to retirement, and some have retired already. The tournament has become the most recognizable symbol of sports fellowship for the denomination. As many as 2,500 people gathered to watch the competition some years, and the tournament was easily the second largest gathering for Free Will Baptists each year.
In recent years, however, the number of teams participating in the tournament has declined sharply. Several factors have contributed. First, many of the faithful players of the 80s and 90s have passed their playing years. Second, the year-long school calendar has become a challenge. Many families used the softball tournament as a time for family vacation, a time to “wrap up the summer” with a trip to Nashville. Today, no matter when the tournament is planned, it conflicts with someone’s school calendar.
A third factor is the decline in the overall interest in church softball and softball in general. Conversations with local umpires indicate that in the Nashville, Tennessee, area, the number of teams participating has declined drastically.
Due to the decline in participation and the amount of money and time required to organize the tournament, Master’s Men has made the difficult decision to discontinue the tournament for now. It was a hard decision. Personally, I have played in the tournament for almost 30 years. Both of my sons played on teams with me…and against me. The softball tournament has been a big part of our family tradition for many years.
We deeply appreciate those who have been faithful to participate and support the tournament, and in the future, if we see interest return, we will happily restart. Is this the “final out” for Master’s Men softball? I hope not, and I am choosing to think of it as an extended off-season.
About the Writer: Ken Akers is director of Free Will Baptist Master’s Men. Learn more about this important ministry: www.fwbmastersmen.org.