Winning awards is satisfying regardless of the type of award. Nearly every occupation nowadays contains a category of special recognition beyond paychecks and a benefits package. During my career, I’ve been fortunate to receive two national awards.
The first was presented in the mid-1980s with the city of Chandler. The oil company Atlantic Richfield Company, or better known as ARCO, used to sponsor a national track and field program called the Jesse Owens Games. Our parks and recreation department became aligned with the Games to provide local kids the opportunity to compete on regional, state and national levels. The program also provided materials for our local track meet such as score sheets and placement ribbons.
To encourage participating departments to increase participation, ARCO sponsored a national track meet contest. I submitted paperwork for our Chandler Elementary Track Meet over a two-year period. We increased attendance from under 100 kids to over 700. I was thrilled when notified we won first place and were rewarded with $500. I used that money to buy more track meet T-shirts for our participants.
For years, Prescott Parks and Recreation was known as the “Softball Capital of the World” that it no longer claims. However, in the 1990s, I helped solidify that boast by securing two national softball tournaments in two years. In 1996, we hosted three small boys fastpitch tournaments. Those were 16 and under, 14 and under and 12 and under.
In 1998, we hit the jackpot with our Men’s “C” National Fast-Pitch Tournament. This men’s tournament attracted 64 teams from 27 states to Prescott over the Labor Day weekend. These tournaments were under the auspices of the Amateur Softball Association, now known as USAS or USA Softball. After every national tournament, the umpire in chief and the ASA regional representative survey all the team representatives to grade the host department.
As the tournament director, my reputation was on the line. If the overall score from each of the team evaluations exceeded 90%, ASA awarded a national award for tournament excellence. By November 1998, I was notified we received one of those awards from ASA.
This award recognized the planning and coordination required for over a year prior to the tournament. We had to secure housing and motel rooms for all the teams as well as the umpires and ASA official. We fed all the team captains at the “breakfast draw” where teams were seeded for the opening round of games.
All our full-time and part-time maintenance staff worked constantly to prepare seven ballfields on time for each of the 127 games that were played. The biggest challenge was getting over 100 local volunteers to serve as scorekeepers, game announcers and team hosts. We negotiated with a local photographer for team pictures and game photos.
When the championship game was completed on that Labor Day afternoon in 1998, more work was required. We had to select an all-tournament team, a most valuable player and make sure that all the correct photo packages were sent to the team representatives.
ASA required various information for its records, so the work carried another two weeks beyond the last game. Serving as the director for a national softball tournament, was an exhausting, challenging but rewarding experience.
I was surprised we received such high marks from the team representatives since it rained four of the five days of the tournament. We constantly had to reschedule and shift games from one part of Prescott to another location in order to complete the tournament on time. I believe that all the players who flew into Phoenix had scheduled their return flights for Monday night. No one missed a flight. Receiving that national award represented an understanding and appreciation from the team representatives, for our efforts to present a quality tournament.
Two weeks ago, Special Events Coordinator Ali Feliz and I accepted an award from the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association for the department’s 2019 Home Tour held on Feb. 9. The tour was named Outstanding Cultural Awareness Program. Ali and I attended the awards dinner along with director Bryan Hughes and recreation coordinators Erasmo “Beebo” Mendivil Jr. and Megan Cetta.
The ceremony is part of the annual APRA State Conference and held to recognize and reward excellence in parks and recreation. Our victory is shared not only with our full-time recreation staff, but the parks maintenance staff, several part-time employees and members of the Home Tour Committee.
A successful home tour also required the cooperation and preparation from the various homeowners who willingly prepared their homes and opened their doors to about 1,000 visitors. This attractive award is displayed in the Community Center, but it belongs to everyone who contributed to the annual Home Tour.