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By Amber Hayden
COLFAX — On any given night of the week, you can drive past Tom Prince Memorial Park and see either a softball or Little League game going on one or both of the fields.
Or sometimes, players are getting in much needed batting practice for their upcoming games for the Monday night men’s league or Thursday night’s co-ed league.
Jeff Prince has been the president of the Colfax Softball Association going on 15 years, but when he was younger, you could find him shagging foul balls for a quarter. Prince also has a team in the men’s league on Monday nights under the name Prince’s Windshield Repair.
Other officers for the association are Shaun Olson, vice-president, and Tammy Briggs, secretary/treasurer.
The Colfax adult softball league began in the 1980s with an over-30 league, meaning anyone that was under-30 couldn’t participate.
“It was more or less to get the older adults to play instead of bringing in younger kids,” said Prince. “Softball was really big and they didn’t want people to bring in heavy hitters.”
When the league first began there were ten teams for the over-30 league which played Monday through Wednesday and on Thursday was the co-ed league, and now the men’s league has seven teams while the co-ed has eight teams.
It’s Prince’s belief that the field usage has been beneficial in recent years as other communities have shut down their softball leagues, and for Colfax, the few tournaments they host a year brings money into the village be it through purchasing items at the Express Mart or Cenex or making their way down to Kyle’s Market or the Dollar General store.
“I can’t stress it enough how beneficial it is to the village,” Prince stated. “Back when my uncle Tom started getting this going, that was his main thing. He wanted the field to be used and I think that he was very successful at getting that going.”
The softball field was originally named the Colfax Recreation Park and was used to host the first softball tournament in August of 1981. It would be 13 years later when the park was renamed to Tom Prince Memorial Park.
Prince recalled when he was younger, the tournaments took place every weekend in Elk Point, which has since shut down, and the fun they had.
“Over in Elk Point it was a fun atmosphere and they would get teams from all over, some of which were from the Twin Cities and as far away as Illinois,” Prince said.
Despite other leagues shutting down, according to Prince, he believes that Colfax has stayed strong due to having someone continue to invest their time into keeping the leagues going.
The current numbers that use the field are between 700 and 800 youth and adults, between the two softball leagues, Little League and T-ball.
“I’ve always been a stickler and the way I look at it is that the youth are the future, and if we don’t support the youth, we won’t have a future for softball,” explained Prince. “And that’s why our involvement there has to be as much as possible and we have to share the fields.”
Prince knows not everyone will be happy with the rules at any given time, but he explained they are put in place for the whole group of youth and adults.
“As adults we have to take it upon ourselves to take care of ourselves, I shouldn’t have to say anything about cleaning up after yourselves and making the park look good,” Prince stated. “Because if trash and other stuff is laying around for other people to see, it has a bad image on us.”
Prince spoke highly of the cooperation the softball association has had with the Village of Colfax, especially since the installment of the new scoreboards, explaining that the village staff have been great to work with.
“People think they can do whatever they want to and I tell them no because we don’t own the field, the village does,” stated Prince. “And they can tell us we are done playing out there at anytime, and that is why I put my foot down on things and say we can’t do this.”
Even now, Prince commented, that when he drives by and sees the fields being used as well as all of the vehicles in the parking lot it brings him joy.
As for tournaments, the Colfax Softball Association hosts the league tournament which will be on August 9 – 11, and the Bushwacker tournament, hosted by an outside group, will fall on August 23 – 25.
Prince, Olson and Briggs have discussed starting a modified fastpitch league in the near future, but finding teams for it is something Prince will have to look into before the March 2020 meeting.
Any questions concerning the adult softball leagues can be asked on the Colfax Softball Association Facebook page and are usually answered in a timely manner.