Softball facilities may lure group to make city home

By Traci Chapman
Published on February 28, 2008

Mustang’s investment in softball may hit a home run if a national softball association relocates its headquarters to the city.

Ridge Hooks, Softball Players Association executive director, said the association is considering moving its offices from Oklahoma City to Mustang because its members “have been so impressed” with the city and its facilities.

“We’re trying to find the right space and have been talking to the city about it,” he said. “If we’re able to arrange it, we would also move our hall of fame to Mustang.”

Hooks said SPA is the second largest senior softball association in the United States and “growing all the time,” with more than 400 teams and 10,000 players nationwide.

“Every seven seconds someone turns 50, and then you’ve got people who couldn’t play before because of work commitments and time constraints,” he said. “The Mustang tournament alone draws 50 to 60 teams from seven states to the area.”

That tournament — the Mustang Classic — is slated for March 29-30 and April 10-14 at Wild Horse Park, Hooks said.

The Mustang Classic is not just any tournament, Hooks said, but now an award-winning series. Mustang Parks and Recreation Department was one of only 15 venues across the country given an “Award of Excellence” by the SPA.

Hooks said 50 facilities competed for the awards, which were based on “professionalism, attitude and a facility’s willingness to work with teams and players” throughout the season.

“The parks department is excited to be recognized by SPA for our efforts in making Wild Horse Park a great place to play,” said Justin Battles, Parks and Recreation Department director.

Dennis Qualls, city sports coordinator, received the award at the SPA annual conference in Dallas Feb. 2. Qualls said the award was gratifying because it was given for a season cut short by adverse weather.

“We worked hard on tournaments that didn’t always work out because of the weather,” he said. “This was an acknowledgement of that hard work.”

Hooks said Battles and Qualls are the reason Mustang garnered the award.

“Justin and Dennis have great attitudes and professionalism. The fields are beautiful, but it’s those two who set it apart,” he said. “Everybody loves to go to Mustang.”

Mustang resident Bob Graham also received an SPA award, the Executive Director’s Award for Excellence. Graham, who serves as a SPA director, is a member of the Mustang Leisure Services Board.

Graham said he has been involved with softball for “many, many” years. He previously served as state director for the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, as well as national youth director for the USSSA. He was inducted into the Oklahoma USSSA Hall of Fame in 1991.

Graham retired from the Federal Aviation Administration after 37 years, and he said he has lived in Mustang for more than 30 years.

Hooks said Graham has a long history with SPA and does “everything,” from helping run tournaments to building the association’s Web site.

“He’s a great asset,” he said. “We’re lucky to have someone with the commitment and drive Bobby has.”

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