Nathan George Softball Classic set for Saturday

On Saturday, beginning with opening ceremonies at 7:45 a.m. at Promenschenkel Stadium, in Dunkirk, the Sixth annual Nathan George Foundation Softball Classic will get underway.

“It’s been absolutely incredible, it really has” foundation board member Sandy George said. “We had so many people inquire, and this year we had to turn some teams away. We’re always beyond words when (the tournament) comes around every year. Nathan would be very proud. It’s quite overwhelming.”

The foundation, named after Nathan George, a Fredonia native who was killed in a car accident in 2009 driving from the Kentucky Derby, in Louisville, Ky., to his home in North Carolina, has given thousands of dollars in scholarships and donations to high school athletes and local youth sports organizations.

“The community has been so generous,” George said. “The sponsorships and donations we have received have been amazing and it’s wonderful to see. My Husband (David) and I both sit back in amazement. When it first started, we thought it would be fun and it keeps getting bigger and bigger every year.”

The tournament, which also has games scheduled at School No. 7, Veteran’s Field and William Koch Field, is headed by Jen DePasquale, as former organizer Mike Cerrie stepped down after last year’s tournament.

“I miss him, I do, but so far so good,” George said of Cerrie. “This is a big tournament and this is the biggest year we’ve had so far. Hopefully Saturday we’ll see how everything pans out.

“I’m not exactly sure how that all transpired,” George added of DePasquale coming aboard. “My sister-in-law was talking to her and she said she’d like to help out, so she came to a board meeting and we asked if she would like to head up the tournament. She gladly accepted and she’s played in (the tournament) since the first year and she knew Nathan and the family.”

There have been a few changes this year, as the tournament switches to a one-pitch, double elimination format from its previous two-ball, one-strike, double-elimination format.

“There was a little bit of adjusting to do and we had to figure out exactly what we wanted to do, and whether or not we wanted to change the format,” George said. “Jen wanted to try something new and we said it sounded good, so we’re going to give it a try.”

The format is not the only change, however, as the pre-tournament activities, as well as some of the day-of activities have changed.

“We changed up Friday night,” George said, noting that instead of a dinner, there would be a happy hour celebrated at Rookies on the Lake from 4-8 p.m. “We have a couple of vendors coming down (Saturday), we have D.J. Joe Gould, we have clams and lobster dainties and we’ll be grilling out hot dogs at every field this year.

“We don’t have the ‘Kids Corner’ this year, because that was headed up by Michael’s wife Brooke,” George continued. “And since she just had a baby, we won’t be doing that.”

When it began six years ago, nobody involved knew if what they were doing was going to be something that lasts, or something that could be sustained year in and year out. But now, after five successful tournaments, George, and the rest of the foundation, hope they will be able to keep the tournament going for years to come.

“We’ve got people backing us and as long as they want to keep doing it, we’ll do it as long as we can,” George said. “It’s a great foundation and keeping Nathan alive is very important to us. Handing out the scholarships with his name (on them) is a pretty neat thing.

“We’ve got some really wonderful people that we couldn’t do it without,” George continued. “We’ve got maybe 30 or 32 volunteers this year helping us out with a little bit of everything. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”