By Tom Mauldin - 8/20/2019
The chalk and dust have settled, the 2019 Fastpitch Northwest College Exposure Tournament is in the books and first-year director Mike Brooks is already in the batter’s box ready for next year’s event.
“This was a great experience for me and I am excited about moving forward,” said Brooks, who was involved with Baseball Northwest for many years before taking the helm of Fastpitch Pitch NW. “We did a few things differently this year and added a few things, and though numbers were down, there’s a lot of excitement as we move forward.”
What was Brooks’ biggest take from the early-August three-day event?
“That there is great passion for softball in the Northwest and our program has the potential to be a great partner to both players and college coaches,” said Brooks, a former professional baseball player. “My experiences this past year have reinforced my commitment to our mission.”
While the numbers were down for this year’s event, there was no letdown of passion for the players or Fastpitch Northwest organizers.
“My highlight was getting a recent call from one of the girls telling me that a college coach had contacted her the day after the Championships and invited her to come to campus for a special workout,” said Brooks, who noted he very much enjoyed meeting the girls and parents during his travels around the northwest hosting prospect evaluation camps (PECs), meeting prep and club coaches, as well as college coaches.
“I got many great insights into the NW softball community that will help me tremendously as we continue to improve the program and introduce new and exciting additions to Fastpitch Northwest,’’ added Brooks.
Among the new things added this year were:
A Monday pre-tournament workout for players in front of college coaches.
Regional teams where players from a certain region played on that team as compared to team mixtures of players from different regions.
Online computer scoring so people unable to attend the tournament could follow their favorite players.
Combined teams featuring younger and older players (incoming seventh through rising seniors) on the same teams.
All-Star selections and All-Star games featuring three-person umpire crews.
And a selection of a Fastpitch Northwest All-Northwest team that will participate in the Triple Crown Softball City of Lights Tournament in Las Vegas in late October.
They also brought back Game MVP awards for each team for each game.
Brooks was quick to note that combining younger and older prospects was a necessity of fewer numbers and while some of the youthful prospects held their own, this was a one-year exception.
Simply put, “it’s not something we will do next year,” said the director.
As for the computer scoring on online game follow, Brooks said it will become a Fastpitch NW regular.
“This was a great idea that needed more preparation before rolling it out this year,” he said. “Because of the format - open substitution etc. - the scorekeepers had trouble keeping up with the current defensive lineups. Some watching at home were frustrated with inaccurate into. Next year we will have the bugs worked out and I believe it is a great addition to the event.”
The other additions for 2019 were well received, especially the Northwest team selection and the pre-tournament workout in front of college coaches.
“This (college workout day) was well received by both the players and coaches,” said Brooks. “The college coaches welcomed a chance to see the players perform more reps and see skills that might be missed during games as some were not able to stay for the whole event. It also gave the coaches a chance to interact with the players and parents in a more relaxed atmosphere.”
Brooks noted that additions to the 2019 event will return in 2020.
With one year under his belt, Brooks said opportunities will continue to expand for Northwest players who dream of playing at the next level.
“I believe the FPNW Championships offers a valuable opportunity to the NW Fastpitch community,” said Brooks. “For both the players wishing to expand exposure opportunities and for college coaches wanting to see more potential prospects competing against quality competition.”
With the 10th annual event in the books, work is already underway for the 11th.
Brooks reminds enthusiasts to stay tuned as more exciting news will be announced in upcoming days and weeks.