Friday, July 31, 2015



Ken Knight – Centerville, Ohio,


Author’s note:  The following is taken from an interview with Mr. Knight, 64, following his attendance at the ISC World Tournament in Eau Claire in 2005.  Ken Knight’s life revolved around sports.  An all-star performer in high school in both basketball and baseball; a high school basketball coach in Simi Valley, California; for nearly 25 years he was Director of Intramural and Recreational Sports at Wright State University in Ohio.



I liked it!  I liked it a lot.  I knew a fair amount about the game before coming to Eau Claire for my first I.S.C. World Tournament since I had played a lot of fastpitch during my years as an intramural sports director.  But I confess I had never faced the kind of pitching that the top teams in ISC competition have.


So let me share my “rookie” observations of the sport at this level; of a tournament of this quality; and of the game as it is played by the I.S.C.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  The layout, the playing fields, the facilities for the tournament were all great.  Physical facilities were excellent; the park was clean; parking was easy.


When you hear the term “World Tournament” you immediately expect the quality of teams and players to be the “best in the world.” I got what I expected here.  I have no doubt that the teams and players I watched were as good as it currently gets in the sport.  The tournament seemed to have a really positive influence on the Eau Claire community.  I got lots of questions and comments around the community about being there for the tournament.  People seemed genuinely pleased to have the event in town (though as I will note later, there were too few of them who ventured into the park to watch the games.)


I quickly realized that a good pitcher dominates this game at least as much as a mobile big man can dominate a college basketball game.  And I noted a pretty wide range of abilities among pitchers - - the position players seemed to be a lot more equal in abilities than were the pitchers.  While a Roger Clemons is tough to beat in a baseball game, it can happen at any time.  But it seemed to me that in fastball a top-drawer pitcher is a lot tougher to beat than it is in baseball.


UMPIRING:  I thought the “blue” did a great job.  They were well in control of the games; they did well at communicating with each other.  They seemed always in position to make calls, and their judgment seemed near perfect - - at least from my positions observing as a fan.  I’m sure my background as an Intramural Sports Director made we watch for this almost instinctively.


HIGHLIGHTS:  I found everyone so friendly.  That included the locals, the concession people; the fans; ballplayers; the ISC commissioners and their families, just EVERYONE. The spirit of old friendships and good feelings was everywhere.  I guess that shouldn’t have been a surprise. I had spent nearly 30 years working sports camps in northern Wisconsin, so I was just finding folks from this area as warm and friendly as ever.  I found the fans to be so very knowledgeable of the sport and eager to talk about the current games as well as those great games and stars of the past.


I enjoyed meeting and chatting with Hall of Famers Bill Boyer and Mark Smith - - really down-to-earth guys who love to talk about the game.  I had a long conversation with Mark Smith, and it was a great experience.  Here was a guy from New Athens, Ohio, (me) and a guy from Nova Scotia (Mark) getting to compare memories of a time when they had both been in the same area of Southern California - - Mark pitching for Camarillo and me teaching/coaching in Simi Valley.  What a fun experience for me that evening at the old ballpark!


I greatly enjoyed my interesting ballpark conversations with Canadian Bruce Simpson and long-time ISC Commissioner Jim Allen.  You sure get an earful of sage observations and strong opinions from Bruce and Jim.


I was amazed at the schedule - - - to find that games might actually be running as much as 20 hours of the day - - from 8 A.M. until the wee hours of the next morning, only to start up at 8 again!


The grounds crews really busting their butts to keep the fields in top condition and get things moving into the next game.  What a joy to watch for an old Intramural Sports Director like me.


FORMAT:  It was good to see the top teams hammering on each other during the pool play.  I just wish there could have been more games like those. I know it is hard to make that happen all of the time, and I know that because of the format those games didn’t mean as much to the teams as they would at the end of the tournament.  I would have hated to see a bunch of run-rule games.




Many of the games I watched took just too long to play.  Most of that was caused by pitchers taking too long to throw.  Sometimes I felt like I was watching a major league baseball game - - or a game that was simply never going to end - - but maybe that is just the nature of the game as it is played today.


I was disappointed at the number of local fans attending - - particularly in the earlier days of the tournament.  It often seemed that the crowd was made up of little more than people associated with the teams involved in the game - - or in the tournament





I can certainly see a place for it and how well it fits into the overall organization of the ISC.  I got to see parts of two days of that competition.  It is a very nice event and it will only get better as it matures.  I could see a big difference in the level of playing skills - - particularly in the pitching.  It seemed to be well-organized and smoothly run - - the fields, the umpiring, and everything about it was impressive.  A good show!




Sure I would come back- - although I probably wouldn’t come for the whole nine days.  I think I would try to catch the last three days when the games would be more meaningful - - and it looked like there were some people doing just that in Eau Claire.


It was exciting to watch the very best of the best in action.  I just wish there was more parity throughout the field of teams in the tournament.


I’m sure that as I watched those games from the perspective of a guy who has been around sports for many years, I realized that in my more limited experience playing fastpitch, the players - - and particularly the pitchers I faced - - were a long way from being world class.


Overall, a good show - - and I enjoyed myself.  Glad to have been a part of it.


Author’s note:  Sadly, Ken Knight will not return to watch another I.S.C. World Tournament.  On Thanksgiving Day, 2005, he died following a sudden illness.  He is greatly missed by his family and many friends including the author who knew him from the time Ken was a teen in the hills of eastern Ohio.  One of Ken’s highlights of the Eau Claire tournament was winning one of the largest 50/50 drawings of the week (several hundred dollars).  Probably no one noticed that after collecting his cash prize, he hunted up the little girl who had sold him his winning tickets and shared a sizeable part of his winnings with her - - that kind of guy!


By:  Gordon Wise - - - ISC Information Officer

July 12, 2006

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