Come together

We've done a lot of complaining in the MIAC about the bad hand that Mother Nature has dealt us this spring. In fact, it's May 1 and I saw legitimate snowflakes falling outside the windows of the MIAC office this afternoon. May. Snow. Come on.

But the complaining stops here. Instead, I'm going to focus on a serious positive that has resulted from the winter ... and second winter ... and third winter ... of 2013. That positive is the revamped 2013 MIAC Softball Playoffs. What is usually a four-team, double-elimination tournament has now been super-sized into an all-comers celebration of softball in the league, and frankly, I think it's awesome.

On one of our many softball conference calls to deal with Snowmageddon 2013, Concordia Head Coach Mike Reese put it best when this 12-team idea was first floated out there. He said - and I'm paraphrasing - that after such a tough season where collectively all our teams faced the same challenges and issues, it would be really cool for everyone to come together at one site and for all the student-athletes to get that unique postseason experience. Now that we've pulled it off and everything is set for this weekend at Caswell Park in North Mankato, Mike's absolutely right ... it's really cool.

Some could call this 12-team tournament and its all-inclusive nature a consolation prize for our coaches and student-athletes who have had their typical season absolutely obliterated by blizzards and ridiculously low temperatures. But I wouldn't say there's anything "consolation" about the new tournament format for 2013. This provides a tremendous postseason experience for ALL of the MIAC's softball student-athletes, and it's extremely cool that it will all happen in one site with 12 games all going on at once tomorrow evening at Caswell. North Mankato will truly become the epicenter of MIAC softball, and everyone will be on-hand to witness and participate.

On top of that, most people (at least in my circle) will tell you their favorite annual sporting event is the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball tournament, and their reasons mirror a lot of the reasons why this weekend's MIAC Softball Playoffs will also be an incredible event. First of all, you have a ton of teams and a ton of games crammed into a very short window. In an era of short attention spans and multi-tasking as a necessity, it's a perfect format. Friday in Caswell, we'll cram 12 games, with each of the 12 teams playing twice, into roughly a six-hour window with games starting on four different fields at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. I'm excited to just go stand in the middle of the complex and take it all in, as action is happening simultaneously all around.

The other aspect people love about the NCAA tourney and "March Madness" is the Cinderella aspect. This year, Florida Gulf Coast played the role to perfection, alley-ooping its way into the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed. Everyone remembers the George Mason and VCU teams that stunned the nation by reaching the Final Four in the past decade. Now, the MIAC Softball Playoffs truly will incorporate the possibility for a Cinderella story to emerge.

What is typically an exclusive showdown for the conference's top four teams will - for this season - include everyone and give each team a fair shot at claiming the MIAC's postseason title. Will all four top seeds hold serve and advance to their "rightful" place in the four-team double-elimination bracket? Will a lower seed emerge with a tremendous postseason performance and spice up the story line on Saturday and Sunday? Will there be any dramatic walk-off finishes or no-hit bids to add to the excitement of an already-exciting tournament?
With 12 teams, 12 games Friday and up to seven more Saturday and Sunday, it's safe to say there will be more than enough highlights to fill a "One Shining Moment" montage. However, we won't really know the answers until the first pitch is concurrently thrown on all four Caswell fields and the action gets under way in roughly 27 hours.
Frankly, I can't wait. Let's do something we haven't been able to do nearly often enough this spring ... play ball.

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