The parents of a softball player from Connecticut came up to tournament director John Thompson in Purcellville during last week's PONY National Tournament of Champions and told him he wouldn't believe their story. He didn't, at first. But it was all true.
The family was trying to find Franklin Park in Purcellville--the only problem was that they were in Ashburn. So they pulled over to the side of the road and asked a Loudoun couple how they could find Franklin Park.
The Loudoun couple ended up driving them all the way to Purcellville in their own car, a round trip of about 30 miles.
"Those are the stories that you never hear about," Thompson said. "But they happen, and it shows how nice the Loudoun community has been."
The PONY tournament--which featured about 300 softball teams from around the country and Canada--concluded Sunday at venues all across the county. Sterling-based teams won two of the five age groups: Fire and Ice took home the 12-and-under championship, and Blue Ice won the 14-and-under category.
Fire and Ice still has much more softball to play this summer, though. Assuming the team can find a few more sponsors, players and their families will be driving up to Baltimore/Washington International Airport on Sunday for a 6 a.m. flight to San Jose. From San Jose, they will make the two-hour drive to Fresno, Calif., for ASA Nationals.
"Our reservations go until the day after the tournament final because we plan to be in that game," said Debbie Polen, president of Fire and Ice. "We knew our girls were good; we just didn't know how good."
The team also won the NSA Virginia state tournament.
"I couldn't be a prouder mama right now," Polen said.
The story about the Connecticut family was just one of many positive tales Thompson heard during the tournament. On Tuesday, when some of the girls had a two-hour wait between games, the line at the Purcellville McDonald's was out the door. Thompson said an older couple was eating, and a group of girls from New Jersey and Massachusetts sat down and told them about the tournament."
"[The older couple] had no idea what was going on, why all these girls were there," Thompson said. "They all really enjoyed the conversation."
Thompson, whose 18-year-old daughter, Margaret, played in the tournament, said everything ran smoothly, despite the potential scheduling disaster of handling more than 4,000 softball players, 30 venues and 1,700 hotel reservations for the tournament.
Last Tuesday, teams played 350 softball games in the county.
"This was a very significant event for female athletes," he said. "They had a lot of fun."
CAPTION: The ball gets by Loudoun Storm's Krystle Cox as Heartbreakers' Desiree Harbaugh races to first in PONY qualifier.