Softball Tourney in the Snow Features Fun, Fundraising

When conditions are snowy, winter softball tournaments can become unpredictable in a hurry — and that’s the fun of it. With the white stuff falling, ground balls that would be certain outs on a clear field can quickly incite certain mayhem.

Just ask Rick Currier, who’s organizing the Ray Roy Memorial Snow Much Fun co-ed softball tournament for the seventh straight year this weekend at Lebanon High School.

“When the snow’s really deep, I’ve seen the ball go four inches in front of home plate and end up being a home run,” Currier said. “That’s what happens when the ball gets buried in the snow and no one can find it. You’ve got to be a really good digger to get it.”

The tourney, which takes place the last full weekend of every January at Lebanon High School, was last truly snowy in 2011. The previous two editions lacked even the crusty, lingering snow that covers the area’s fields now.

“Unfortunately, in recent years it hasn’t been much of a snow tournament and more like a traditional game,” said Currier. “It’s more fun when there’s a lot of snow.”

More important than the competition is the cause. The first, in 2008, raised more than $7,600 — $5,000 coming in a single, anonymous donation — for the family or Brianna Beland, a Hartland toddler battling leukemia. It was modeled after Frozen Fun for Families, a Barre, Vt.-based tourney that routinely draws dozens of teams and set a Guinness world record five years ago with 61 teams and 795 players. That tournament picks one ailing child to benefit each year, a stipulation Currier found too emotionally challenging.

Since 2009, Snow Much Fun has benefited Prevent Child Abuse Organizations of Vermont and New Hampshire, raising more than $18,750 for the nonprofits.

“We felt like we would be too emotionally attached to keep going (with a single benefactor),” Currier said. “It’s a situation where if things take a turn for the worse, it can be really devastating. But it was still important for us to do something to help children. My father-in-law (Ray Roy) was on one of the boards for Prevent Child Abuse and we thought it would be a great cause to raise money for.”

The Snow Much Fun tourney is now named for Roy, who died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in December 2012. Currier also previously ran a similar softball tournament in his hometown of Rutland, rasing funds for the Foley Cancer Center at Rutland Regional Medical Center for eight years.

Currier and co-directors Tiffany Currier, his wife, and friend Cean Lieberman have decided in recent years to focus on the Lebanon event, and it paid off with increased participation over the years, peaking at nearly 200 players (19 10-member teams) last winter.

The tourney is experiencing its first drop-off this season, with only 13 teams signing up, its lowest since it drew nine its first year.

“We were hoping to keep the (upward) trajectory going and have 20 teams this year, but instead we lost numbers,” Currier said. “It’s very disappointing, and I don’t know why it happened. It does get pretty cold, and maybe people thought it was going to be too cold or too snowy this year. I don’t think it’s because people weren’t having fun. We have fun every year, and the real incentive is the cause.”

Snow Much Fun follows single-pitch rules, with pitchers throwing to their own teams and every pitch resulting in either an out or at least one base. Teams can have no more than six men, and the lineup can’t send more than two players of the same gender in a row to the plate.

A team named Extreme Auto has won four of the last five championships.

Currier has tried to make the event spectator friendly, especially given what can be bone-chilling conditions. This Saturday’s forecast calls for a chance of snow and temperatures in the upper 20s before dropping back into the teens on Sunday.

“Some friends and family have come to watch, but we’d like to make it more of something that brings out the community,” Currier said. “We have a concession stand every year, and this year we’re having Miss New Hampshire and Miss Vermont come out to throw the first pitch.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.