Moving the Chicago 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame from Sportsman’s Park Race Track to the town that hosts the No Gloves Tournament is a no-brainer. The hall will give Forest Park national prominence, because I believe the country is about to be swept by a 16-inch softball craze.
How do I know this? Well, during last month’s tournament, Bruce and Cheryl Belnap journeyed from Idaho to Forest Park to visit their daughter Hannah and her husband Brian. Bruce had never heard of 16-inch softball and ventured down to the park to check out a game.
“I went there out of curiosity to see the size of the ball and I ended up sitting through five games,” Bruce confessed. Bruce is an amateur anthropologist, who enjoys exploring local subcultures. He was so taken with the exploits on the field; he left the park and purchased his first Clincher. He bought it as a souvenir but ended up borrowing a bat and knocking it around the park with his family.
The Belnaps were so entranced by the tournament, they went back to watch it for a second night. Their third night in town, they decided to take in a classical concert at Millennium Park. When the music ended, they discussed various sights they could visit downtown. But Bruce glanced at his watch and noted that if they hurried back to Forest Park, they could catch the last game of the evening.
The Belnaps were not just impressed by the pageantry of sports in Forest Park.
“One of the things I like about Forest Park,” Bruce said, “is the small-town feel.” He could actually imagine himself watching a game back in Idaho, that is, until the screech of an elevated train would shake him from his reverie.
The Belnaps are both educators from Montpellier, Idaho, population 2,600. Bruce is the principal of Bear Lake Middle School, which is now introducing 16-inch softball to its students. The phys-ed teacher likes the game because the school has a shortage of gloves. Students who would otherwise have trouble getting around on a fastball can also play this game.
Bruce also likes the democratic spirit of the game and the fact that it can be played by middle-aged guys like him. In fact, he has already hosted a game on his farm for the local church group. Bruce predicted that as 16-inch culture spreads, they will soon be subsisting on hot dogs and deep-dish pizza in his hometown.
So, let’s get on board this national trend and donate the money necessary to place the center of the softball universe in Forest Park. Call (630) 696-4000, or visit www.16inchsoftballhof.com. When the hall is finished, we can immediately install members of the Miller 45s. Maybe then they’ll stop dominating the tournament.