For Kenny Nelson, traveling to Montana for a tournament is nothing big. Being on the tournament winning team and being named MVP of the division is also nothing new.
Nelson and three other local softball players (Davin Weaver, Sean Harrington and Tony Salas) traveled to Anaconda, Mont., over the July 12-13 weekend to compete in the Goosetown Softball Tournament, which is one of the biggest softball tournaments in the country with more than 160 teams, four divisions and a separate women’s tournament all in one weekend.
The “C” Division is the top division in the tournament with Nelson, Weaver, Harrington and Salas all playing for the Twin Falls Rebels, who competed in the Mens “D” Division. Divisions D1 and D2 then follow below.
Weaver, Harrington and Salas were all named to the All-Tournament team over the weekend.
Nelson, Weaver, Harrington and Salas all play in both Hailey’s and Ketchum’s co-ed softball leagues. Nelson’s wife, Shanelle, also plays in both leagues and her team placed sixth in the Goosetown Touranment.
Nelson got on the Twin Falls Rebels’ roster seven years ago and played in the Goosetown Tournament for the first time last year, so when Twin Falls needs an extra bat, they call Nelson for some help.
Last year, the Rebels took second place in the tournament.
Over the weekend, Nelson said he had one of those tournaments that no matter what he hit, it was either out of the park or a deep double.
“We were on fire this year,” he said. “We couldn’t lose, even if we tried to. A softball is already big, but over that weekend it looked like a beach ball.”
Nelson said that throughout each game when the opposing team would score, Twin Falls would come back and pile on more and more runs.
Nelson, 33, a Wood River High School graduate of 1999, played catcher at the College of Southern Idaho from 2001-2003 and then played at Concordia University in Portland, Ore., from 2003-2005. The game of baseball has been in his life from the first time he took a breath. His family’s love for the game has helped it become engrained in his DNA.
To play catcher is to have knowledge of the game (it’s the field general). Nelson’s baseball knowledge started at an early age watching his father, David, when he was young.
“Baseball has always been the biggest sport in our family,” Nelson said.
Nelson moved from a prominent baseball family to playing for Lars Hovey at Wood River, then playing for Skip Walker at CSI and Rob Vance at Concorida.
Nelson began playing softball competitively when he was just 16 to fill in for random rosters and his love for the laid-back style began to grow in him.
With two young boys (Dyson, 3, and Cooper, 9 months) and a wife who is a softball junkie, too, Nelson wants to pass down his knowledge to his children the same way his father did to him. With all the knowledge and love of baseball, why keep playing softball?
“I have 18 years of coaching my boys ahead of me,” Nelson said. “I want them to come watch me play like I did with my dad. I would rather play as long as I can before my kids get old enough to play themselves. Then I can transfer my knowledge off to them.”
With great knowledge of the game, Nelson said the biggest difference between baseball and softball is reaction time. Playing softball gives the batter more time to adjust to a pitch. A batter can hit any pitch to anywhere in the park.
“Softballs are big gigantic balls and you can do anything you want with them,” Nelson said. “People still have to make plays in softball, but you have more time.”
Nelson said hitting a softball isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s a lot easier than hitting a 95-miles-per-hour fastball and then have to turn around and hit a 75 mph curveball that could make you look dumb.
Currently, Nelson is playing for Cups & Bras for the Hailey City League and also plays for Lefty’s for the Ketchum City League.