AYF Softball 2016: A Saturday Tradition

When I was a member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Saturdays were dedicated to Track and Field preliminaries.  During my era as an AYFer, participation must have diminished, because by the time I was aging out, preliminaries were no longer held and Saturdays became a free day.   To fill the gap, there were a few experiments such as soccer—which never really took hold—and tug of war—which lasted for several years.  At some point, the AYF adopted softball and this team sport became quite popular.  In the early years, they played regulation slow pitch with the regulation softball.  In recent years, the AYF made the game co-ed.

Team Detroit
Team Detroit (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

Softball is the only co-ed sport in the AYF Olympic weekend.  It is also the only team sport, and the only sport that does not contribute to the overall point total for team.  That’s right… The games are played for fun.  But still, each chapter plays to win and take these fun games seriously.

The games are seven innings long.  To make the games move faster, the AYF plays what is known as three pitch softball.  Each batter gets three pitches. Period.  If the ball is not put into play in three pitches, the player is called out.  So, each team pitches to its own players so that the batters get more hittable pitches.  There are also rules for how many innings the female players must play.  Lastly, they use a softer softball that does not travel as far or hurt as much if it hits someone.  It is a fast, fun, and engaging game.

New Jersey making a play at second base (Photo; Mark Gavoor)
New Jersey making a play at second base (Photo; Mark Gavoor)

The softball tournament is held in one day and chapters take these bragging rights games seriously.  Parents, friends, and alumni come to cheer on their teams and enjoy all the games.  The host chapter has concessions.  It is a fun time.

Recently, the AYF Western Region has entered a team every year and they are quite competitive.  Detroit and New Jersey have been the powers in these tournaments and often face each other in the semi-finals or finals.  As host chapter the New Jersey Arsens wanted to win this one and told me so, while Detroit wanted to avenge their loss to Jersey last year… They also told me so.

Jersey made quick work of Boston and Detroit beat California in a much closer game.

Kyle Niffin of Detroit (Photo: Mark Gavoor)
Kyle Niffin of Detroit (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

This is the game most fans anticipated and most players expected:  New Jersey vs. Detroit in the final game.  The Arsens were bound and determined to with at home.   They were fired up and scored 5 runs in the top of the first.  They then held Detroit scoreless in the bottom of the first inning and it looked like Jersey might be on their way to a rout.   Detroit had the championship game jitters and made a few errors in the first inning of which the Arsens led by the Sarajian and Tarzian brothers took full advantage of with their speed to score runs.

In the second inning, Detroit calmed themselves down and sent New Jersey down 1-2-3.  In the bottom of the second, Detroit’s offense woke up and they scored 2 runs making the score Jersey 5-Detroit 2.  In the third inning, Jersey took the score to 6-2.  The fourth inning was scoreless as both defenses dug their heels in.

Team New Jersey (Photo: Mark Gavoor)
Team New Jersey (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

In the fifth inning, Detroit held New Jersey scoreless.  In the bottom of the inning, Detroit scored four runs to tie the game at 6-6.  Two of the four runs came on a monster triple hit by Mourad Toussounian.  Detroit scored two more runs in the sixth inning.  They held New Jersey scoreless to secure a hard fought 8-6 win.  It was a great game.

The beautiful thing was the comradery shown after the game in the joint team photo… and, of course, a determination by New Jersey to get them next year.

The 'Kebabjis' at the softball concessions
The ‘Kebabjis’ at the softball concessions

Keep a look out for the Armenian Weekly’s Olympic Issue for more details on the AYF Olympic Softball Tournament.

Mark Gavoor
Mark Gavoor is Associate Professor of Operations Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. He is an avid blogger and oud player.

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