Great Friends. Honest Competition. The Great Outdoors.
This is the experience of playing snowshoe softball in the mountains of northern Idaho.
The winter of 2018 marked the 49th year of the three-weekend-long tournament and the 29th year for
my group, The Grinders. (Started by a college football teammate who also played hockey at Michigan
State …’Grinder’ is a term used to describe a hockey player who is relentless in their play and makes no
hesitation to stick their nose into the toughest spots on the ice.)
This is modified fastpitch with teams made up of many former high school, college and even a few
former pro athletes. …I can let the cat out of the bag now. A few years ago, my younger brother
Todd, who played five seasons in the Major Leagues, came up and played with us a couple of weeks
before heading to Spring Training with the Giants. They would not have been too happy if they had
found out what he’d been up to ...and yes, he hit a couple of balls really far : )
Games usually end in good baseball scores: 6-4, 8-5, 3-2, etc. The athleticism possessed by the players is neutralized somewhat by the
snowshoes and the snowy terrain. But while the environment is challenging, we still see a good amount of quality action …double
plays, diving catches and close plays at the plate.
We started out as a group of young kids fresh out of college, full of energy and a nose for adventure. We did find our share of
excitement in the evenings at one of the two watering holes that bookend the playing area. Now, we are all fathers with families and
the weekends are quite a bit mellower. About half of the group has retired in recent years, but still come up each winter to enjoy the
The club is now made up of two generations, with a couple of the original players’ sons (and a few of their former college teammates) playing side by side with their dads. We have one player who has
achieved the title of Grandpa!
The friendships extend beyond just our club. Many of the players on opposing teams are friends or acquaintances the rest of the year. The games end mid-afternoon, then we all mix together later in the
day for food and a couple adult beverages. A spin or two on the dance floor to the sounds of a local band is not unheard of, and of course, there is some good-natured trash-talk of what transpired on the
field earlier in the day.
The thing about getting older is the realities of life come to the forefront. This year we dedicated
our play to members of the families of some of the players. One has a father battling cancer,
another lost his father-in-law a few days before the tournament started. Perspective has a way of
taking off the pressure that we all seem to put on ourselves, even if it’s just playing recreationally.
Over the years we’ve won the title six times, while finishing second 12 times. Yes, we know very
well what the Buffalo Bills and their fans feel ; ) - Twenty-Eighteen marked the first time we won
the title in back to back years …I guess it took the second generation to help us sniff anything that
might be considered a dynasty.
While winning is always fun, it’s the three decades old tradition of getting together with a lot of good folks, many of whom you only see once a year (though it always seems like you just talked to them
yesterday) that is the real joy of participating in the tournament.
And it’s not just the players. Wives, girlfriends, children, siblings, and other family members make the trek to the mountains to share the experience. There is also a fair contingent of man’s best friend
attending the games …or at least enjoying playing in the snow nearby. Its nice to have a furry pair of ears to scratch after you’ve had a poor at-bat.
Without question, this is the event that I look forward to most each year. Hopefully the body will
hold up and make a few more years of playing possible.
I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a unique experience and great group of people. We often
look back at our childhood, high school and college days and find that many of our fondest
memories, and some of our most solid friendships, are those made playing team sports. The
relationships built over these 29 years are iron clad and its beyond words for me to describe what
they mean to me.
Thanks for reading and allowing me to share the Snowshoe Softball Experience with you. All the best for a great season mentoring the kids on the ballfields this spring; helping them create memories and
establish friendships they will hold onto for years to come.