Photo by Bill Roseberry
Leroy Emerick, left and son Dean Emerick, right look over paperwork dealing with the ASA Illinois Class C Co-Ed state tournament which began at Gordon Moore Park on Friday.
It’s a family affair in area Amateur Softball Association circles. Dad has passed the leadership torch to his youngest son.
Dean Emerick, 56, has taken over for Leroy Emerick, 90, as the tournament director for the Illinois Class C Co-Ed event that started Friday at Moore Park. The 17-team slow-pitch tourney is expected to conclude Saturday, with the winner advancing to the nationals in Rolla, Mo.
And Dean will begin functioning as the local commissioner next year. Leroy, who has been with the ASA since 1948 and serving as a commissioner since 1950, remains the state’s senior vice president. Switching from Emerick to Emerick appears to be a smooth move within the ASA hierarchy.
“It’s in our blood,” Leroy quipped about the Emericks’ love affair with softball.
He added, “I’m grooming Dean to take over and his daughter (Danelle) and son (Drew) are also involved in it.”
Naturally. That’s the Emerick way.
Dean said of his dad, “I don’t know if anybody can fill his shoes or replace him. He has all of the years of experience through the years. I’ll just try to keep it going and try some new things.”
This weekend’s co-ed tournament features some different wrinkles, including a skills competition, specifically a home-run hitting contest. Women will hit homers from second base. There will also be throwing and speed competitions.
Ball Park Motors of Jacksonville is striving for its third consecutive state championship. Greater Alton team Westco could be among the main challengers. It features players from the 2012 state champ Revolution squad.
“We’re trying to get more teams to come to the state tournament,” said Dean, a 1977 East Alton-Wood River High graduate. “We want to get as many as we can. The goal is to get back to 30 teams like we’ve had in the past.”
It was Leroy Emerick pushing the envelope for co-ed state play in the late 1980s. The first ASA-endorsed tournament at Moore Park in 1989 drew 14 teams. By 1995, it had grown to 32 teams and it peaked with 39 squads in 2003. The co-ed highlight proved to be the 2007 Nationals. It could be the first and only time that Alton plays host to that U.S. event.
“That national tournament was the highlight of my career,” Leroy said proudly.
He added, “The co-ed tournament was my baby. We started it in 1987 at Roxana, went to Wood River the next year and took it to Moore Park in 1989, after the ASA put it on their schedule.
“It has been a great tournament, too. We’ve never had any problems with it. The men and women come to play and have a good time.”
Dean intends to keep those good times rolling, especially this weekend. He plans to take a page out of his dad’s extensive play book.
“Dad interacts well with people and makes it fun for them,” he said. “He does it right and I want to keep doing it that way.”
As for Leroy, a former mayor of Wood River, he figures Dean is built to take the Emerick baton and go with it. Dean played softball for more than 30 years and sought to retain his ties with the sport. An administrative position seemed the perfect way to do it.
“He has been involved with it for a long time,” Leroy said. “He has the game experience.”
There’s no substitute for experience, so Leroy Emerick will still be available if Dean needs some quick advice.
“I’ll be out there Friday night,” Leroy insisted.
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