When it was time for American Fastpitch Assn. tournament director Ed Kimminau to make a choice for where the AFA "B" Girls Fastpitch Softball National Tournament would be held, he said it was pretty much a no-brainer.
"Oh yeah, real easy," Kimminau said of choosing Lawrence for this week's national tourney, which will bring almost 4,000 people to the city.
Three age divisions -- 14 and under, 16 and under, 18 and under -- featuring about 126 teams from 11 states will compete in the double-elimination tournament held at Clinton Lake Softball Complex starting today and concluding with the championship game Sunday.
"It's just a really great town for this kind of a tournament," said Kimminau, who is the AFA director for Kansas. "Small enough to have a nice cozy feel, but also large enough and close enough to major cities to accommodate a tournament of this caliber."
While Kimminau praised the community, he said perhaps the biggest positive for the tournament was the "awesome" field work of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department.
"One big reason for us coming back here was the fields. I know that I never ever have to worry about the fields because those guys are just great," he said. "That complex has the best fields in the state."
While the majority of the teams competing are located throughout the Midwest -- coming from Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois -- a team from Washington will travel the farthest.
Lawrence and surrounding towns will be well represented with seven teams playing in the tournament that will feature a round of pool play before the double-elimination portion.
"Of course, being a local team, we want to represent Lawrence well and hopefully win it all," said Gary Tanner, who coaches the 16-under Phenix T's.
"More than anything, it's just exciting to be playing in a tournament this big in our own backyard."
The Lawrence Phenix Fastpitch organization will have five teams playing this week. The Phenix Rusk will play in the 14-under division, while the Phenix Epperson will compete in the 18-under division. Three Phenix squads -- the T's, the Phenix Riling and the host team, the Phenix Flyers -- are in the 16-under division.
The Lawrence Hummers will play in the 18-under division, while the Tonganoxie Braves will compete in the 14-under age group.
Phenix president Wayne Pearce said he hopes the tournament doesn't just showcase how cool the community of Lawrence is, but that the local teams will be competitive.
"This is just a great opportunity for our teams to show everybody what Phenix softball is all about," he said.