The sport of softball is so widely played, both in Tennessee and nationwide, that it has a significant economic impact wherever it goes and thankfuly, every July, girls youth softball descends on Pigeon Forge and Sevier County.
Jim and Freddie Mullins of East Tennessee founded Sporting Events Association of America in 2001. Starting July 9th of next year, their two annual tournaments will host more than 200 youth softball teams, ages 4-20 years, from 10 states across the southeast. They will occupy thousands of hotel rooms and cabins, eat, shop and play, while spending over $2 million throughout Sevier County during 2 week long competitions. Not bad for a retired couple who loves sports and kids.
The game we call Softball today, originated in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day in 1887. About twenty young men gathered in the gym of the Farragut Boat Club to hear the outcome of the Harvard and Yale football game. After Yale's victory was reported, one of the Harvard faithful picked up a stray boxing glove and threw it at a Yale supporter, who retaliated by hitting it back to the instigator with a short pole. George Hancock, a journalist for the Chicago Board of Trade at the time, noticed the exchange and shouted, "Let's play ball!" He then tied the boxing glove into the shape of a ball, chalked out a diamond on the hard wood floor and broke off a broom handle to function as the bat. Although, originally called indoor baseball, softball was born on that day.
Softball may not have survived that first escapade had Hancock not been so fascinated by it. In the days that followed, he actually created an oversized ball and an undersized bat. Then, he returned to the gym and painted permanent white foul lines on the floor. The next spring, Hancock took his new game outdoors and played it on fields not large enough for baseball and the young inventor soon emerged as the game’s recognized authority.
The first women’s softball team was formed in 1895 at Chicago's West Division High School. They did not have a coach their first 4 years and it was difficult to generate interest. Nevertheless, the popularity of women's softball experienced remarkable growth during the 20th century. In fact, the Amateur Softball Association recently reported that it registers over 260,000 teams annually, combining to form a participating membership of almost 5 million players. These numbers do not all apply to the girls, but it is their segment that is growing the fastest. Today, across America, hundreds of leagues and thousands of players establish softball as one of America's favorite sports.
Married 42 years this month, the Mullins’ became involved in softball as adults when Freddie joined a ladies team as a pitcher in the early 1980’s. Jim became the coach and the couple spent the next 16 years having the time of their lives. They formed SEAA in 2001 after years of running tournaments for other organizations. The girls are back in town when the 2008 slow-pitch tournament will commences on July 9, lasting 6 days and the fast-pitch competition will run July 21-27. Both events will be held at the Pigeon Forge City Park. You can contact Freddie or Jim at 865-717-4932 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tournament rules and registration are on-line at www.seaayouth.com.
The efforts of Jim and Freddie Mullins clearly demonstrate that what is good for kids is not only good for families – it can also be real good for the economy.
Henry Piarrot is a lodging manager in Sevier County, TN. Please send all story recommendations to email@example.com