Families stroll around U.S. Cellular Community Park on Tuesday during the ASA Western National Softball Tournament. - Photo by Larry Stauth

Economic home run

The Tomkins family of Arcadia, Calif., has some softball — and some spending — to do this week.

So do dozens of other families visiting the Rogue Valley for the 57-team ASA Western National Softball Tournament at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

It is the largest softball tournament ever coordinated by the Medford Parks and Recreation Department. The event, which began with an opening ceremony on Monday and concludes Sunday, is expected to generate at least $1 million in economic impact for the community, Medford recreation superintendent Rich Rosenthal said.

The tournament attracted teams from as far as San Diego, Seattle and Walla Walla, Wash., and only three local squads are in it.

That means the money will be flowing like a river.

Julie Tomkins watched from her folding chair and Kevin Tomkins stood nearby as their 13-year-old daughter Payton and her Synergy teammates played Tuesday evening.

The Tomkins arrived in Medford Saturday night and ate at Jackson Creek Pizza before settling in at the Red Lion. The family and the rest of the squad — along with many of their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters — did Hellgate Jetboat Excursions on Sunday, dined at Red Robin later that night and went to Safeway and Starbucks the next day. The clan plans to bowl, play miniature golf, watch movies and eat well between now and when softball action wraps up.

And with just one game to attend each day for most teams, families will be in search of things to do.

All the while, everyone will be contending with the smoke created by nearby fires. Only a handful of spectators wore masks on Tuesday.

"I like it here," Julie said. "I prefer no smoke, but it is beautiful. I would love to see it in the fall with all the colors."

At another field, Joe Rodriguez of Corona, Calif., watched his 12-year-old daughter Melissa play for Storm USA Herrera. Despite the poor air, he said he was loving his time here.

"This is a great, friendly town," Rodriguez said.

The tournament features 10- and 12-and-under girls fastpitch squads from around the West Coast. Pool play games began at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and double-elimination bracket play commences Thursday.

Championship games are slated for noon (U10) and 3 p.m. (U12) on Sunday. In total, 172 games will be played. Every two hours, seven contests go off around five different fields.

The 44-team U12 field features nine Oregon teams, including state champion Nightmare Softball from Oregon City and squads from Central Point, Eagle Point and Grants Pass. Twenty-nine teams traveled from California and six from Washington.

The 13-team U10 age group includes eight California teams and five Oregon squads, including the state champion Shockwaves from Gresham.

So why are there just three Rogue Valley teams?

"There are very few U10 teams in Southern Oregon," said Rosenthal, who is the tournament director. "Especially at the A level (the most advanced). ... I'm disappointed there wasn't a U12 Medford team."

The $1 million estimate is based on numbers gathered from a similar 12-team softball tournament in 2010, Rosenthal said. The four-day event saw each squad and its traveling party spend a total of roughly $20,000.

And when the purses and wallets open, the cards and cash go every which way.

"A team spends on lodging, on food, transportation costs, retail shopping and recreation and entertainment," Rosenthal said. "The hotel bill alone is fairly sizable. Even though some teams have up to four girls staying in one room, you have 12 players and then two or three coaches and however many parents coming along and sometimes grandparents. For a lot of teams this is their family vacation."

The magnitude of the ongoing tournament isn't lost on Rosenthal, who added that he would not be surprised to see the financial approximation exceeded and for the event to turn a profit.

"I think $1 million is a conservative figure," he said. "A tournament this size has a fighting chance to be profitable, based on concession revenue, gate receipts, contest sign-ups, apparel sales and a percentage we get."

The city lost $7,000 on the softball tournament it hosted in 2010, something that Rosenthal said was budgeted. But with that loss came around $300,00 in economic impact.

What arose from the statistics was a philosophical question: was the $7,000 worth the return of $300,000 in economic benefits?

"And that is a question so far the city of Medford has answered yes," Rosenthal said.

"This tournament has a very good chance of being profitable in terms of covering direct costs," Rosenthal added. "Things like staff time, all the expenses, providing (one) meal and lodging for umpires and tournament officials."

Teams will fill out questionnaires after the tournament so that Rosenthal and others can get an even clearer picture of how much was spent and how things went.

"It's important to us to be able to demonstrate to decision makers that there is a return on investment and it's not just a guess or speculation," Rosenthal said. "We did our best to get hard data."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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