Drew Turner cracks a double in his first at-bat of the 2014 softball season Tuesday at Loudy-Simpson Park. The summer softball leagues attract a wide variety of faces from around Craig each summer.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Drew Turner cracks a double in his first at-bat of the 2014 softball season Tuesday at Loudy-Simpson Park. The summer softball leagues attract a wide variety of faces from around Craig each summer.

Craig softball league a hit at Loudy-Simpson Park

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— Loudy-Simpson Park is a major attraction in Craig during the summer, hosting community events such as Whittle the Wood and Triple Crown baseball tournaments in addition to maintaining its status as a popular site for picnics, floating the river and walking the trails.

But among the many activities happening at Loudy in the summer months, few match up with the adult softball leagues in tradition or popularity.

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Kenny Thompson prepares to toss a pitch during the Cromer/Spirit Pass/Cook Chevrolet team's first softball game of the season.

Teams in 2014 adult softball league

Carelli's

Cromer/Spirit Pass/Cook Chevrolet

Extinguisher Solutions

Gino's

Mutts

Napa/Severson Supply

Paulson/Popular Bar

R&S Well Service

Sand Spring Archery

TLC

Vallarta's

Xcel/Trapper

For the past few decades, a widespread segment of the community in Craig has come to Loudy-Simpson on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights in order to enjoy a casual game of slow-pitch softball, their teammates and perhaps a couple of beers in the process. Teams and individuals come in all ages and sizes in the softball league, which allows lots of former athletes and others simply interested in something different to do as a way to stay active.

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Kori Finneman hits a single to right field Tuesday at Loudy-Simpson Park.

“This is my second year in the league. I came up here from Mississippi,” Denise Baptist said. “I used to play there in high school and college, so I love the game. (The league) helps you get off your butt and get outside.”

There are other reasons people play softball, but the majority of them come back to having a good time.

“It’s all about having fun with the team,” Macho Nunez said about the team from Vallarta’s, the defending champions. “You get to come out here and meet new people and just have fun.”

The 2014 season began play Tuesday with 12 teams in the league, down from last year’s 16. But that still means well more than 100 members are on team rosters, with substitutes and fans and family members showing up each week, as well.

With such a large pool of players, there is a wide variety of talent levels and personalities strewn throughout the league. Some teams have Moffat County High School athletes or college students home for the summer playing alongside teammates well into middle age. Some have loaded lineups, and others have players who may strike out more than they get on base.

But in a town like Craig, most opposing teams have players who know one another well, allowing for good-natured banter from opponents and encouragement from teammates throughout most games.

“We’re competitive, but we’re here to have fun,” said Kenny Thompson, of Cromer’s. “Me personally, I don’t care if we win or lose.”

Nunez added that last year, even when Vallarta’s was matched up against one of the weaker teams, they tried to make it a good time.

“It’s not boring going against an easier team, I don’t think,” he said. “You switch positions, try to hit from the other side of the plate, stuff like that to keep it fun. The other team may not be having as much fun losing, but you try to keep it light for them, too.”

Nunez started the Vallarta’s team five years ago, and coming back has been an easy decision each time. Many others have been playing for more than 10 years, or longer.

“I like the game,” said Kristine Petch, who estimated her time in the league at about 12 years. “I play up in Steamboat too, because it’s fun.”

While there is some prestige to winning the trophy each year, it’s not the first thing on most teams’ minds. But for 2014, with Vallarta’s fielding a mostly new roster and runner-up TCB not playing this season, the championship is more of a mystery.

“We’re like 90 percent a new team this year, I only know a couple of our guys, really,” Nunez said. “We’ll just try to figure it out and have fun.”

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@CraigDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.

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