Fuzzball tournament a hit for Annual Catholic Appeal
The bat makes a quick whoosh sound and then a soft poof noise when it connects, while the ball has a dull thump rather than a sharp pop in the glove.
The sounds and the surroundings are a little different than baseball, but the basics are the same. You pitch the ball, you hit the ball.
The purpose and the fun are what is most important to the players in the 14th Annual Fuzzball Tournament in Chesterfield, held July 14. This year's tournament, with an entry fee of $50 per player and various sponsorships, raised money for the Annual Catholic Appeal.
The fun was evident in the smiles on players' faces and the good-natured banter and kidding.
One place where the fun reigned was with a team of self-proclaimed "old guys" who have been members of Ascension Parish in Chesterfield 35 years or so. "We had a ball," said Ed Huels, who at age 70 was the oldest player. "The young kids couldn't believe we could still throw, hit and catch," Huels said. "We hit a few dingers (home runs). Yeah, it was pretty much fun for an old guy."
Huels hit a grand slam, but most satisfying to him was when he overheard a younger guy, age 38, say to a friend, "You know that big, old guy -- he smoked one."
Huels' team was in the running until they "ran out of steam," he said as he related playing the game every day growing up from early in the morning 'til dark.
"We were the oldest group out there," said his teammate, Russ Isaak, noting that the four players' combined ages was about 265. "Baseball players are baseball players ... we're joking with them and they're joking with us about the game."
Huels, Isaak and their teammates are part of a group of guys that includes mostly Ascension parishioners who have a regular sports and social night each week, Huels said, playing volleyball, Indian ball and other sports, including fuzzball.
Huels has given to the Annual Catholic Appeal for many years and was happy to have another opportunity to support it.
Tournament players range in age from 21 to 70, though each team can have only one player under age 30. Hard throwers aren't necessarily the most successful since pitches with a lot of movement, breaking up or down, often are the hardest to hit.
For pitchers, at the end of the day "your arm's toast," said John Federer. "It is like pushing a cotton ball as hard as you can."
** If your web browser can not view the slideshow above, please click here **
Federer and his brothers grew up playing the game in south St. Louis in neighborhoods surrounding St. Gabriel Parish. They decided to start playing it in West St. Louis County at his home, with money raised for charity.
The tournament has grown every year, with sponsorships added. This was the biggest year, with some 80 players on 16 teams and sponsors including Dierbergs, Anheuser Busch, Amini's and Trident Group, among others. With a round-robin style of play, every team was guaranteed three games. Some $3,000 was raised this year.
Past recipients have included Backstoppers, Eternal Family Network, the family of a local girl who injured her spine in a gymnastics accident and Catholic Charities' work in the Joplin tornado recovery.
"It doesn't raise a ton of money, but we raise awareness," said Federer, chairman of this year's Annual Catholic Appeal, noting that T-shirts given to players this year featured the Appeal. Federer cited the corporal and spiritual works of mercy made possible by the funds raised by the Appeal. Players "have a great time but get to participate in something bigger and greater," he said. "Hopefully others will get more involved in the Appeal and help its mission."
Players of various faiths gather during the tournament with their friends and make new friends, Federer noted. They appreciate that they are helping the Appeal reach out into the community to people who are suffering. He pointed to agencies funded by the Appeal such as Marygrove, which provides residential services and therapeutic intervention for children, adolescents and young adults. A team from the Annual Catholic Appeal staff took part in the tournament.
Federer pointed to the need "to stand up and be vocal for our Church -- to witness for our Church. It's good to see that it (the faith) is not something they keep in their back pocket."
Jeff Podolsky, who has played several years, said that though he is Jewish he supports the charity chosen by Federer and believes the tournament is a great way to do so. "It's definitely a good time. It's for charity, so I can't think of a better reason to do it. That's the reason I keep coming back every year."
What is fuzzball?
A form of stickball, the game especially popular through the years in south St. Louis, uses a tennis ball with a corkball bat or broom handle.
Versions can vary somewhat, but generally pitchers stand about 45 feet away. The pitch-and-hit game has no runners and only hits (singles), home runs, walks or outs. A foul tip is an out. In the recent tournament in Chesterfield, batters got two strikes and five balls, but the ball-strike combination varies elsewhere. Teams usually have three to five players each.
- Gannon's award highlights work of Annual Catholic Appeal
- Annual Catholic Appeal taps into corporal works of mercy as source of strength for those who give
- Annual Catholic Appeal shatters 2011 goal
- A call to generosity | Annual Catholic appeal reaches many, every minute, every day
- Ryan/Governal golf tournament hosted by Catholic Education Office set
- News »
- Papal News
- Religious Liberty
- Living Our Faith »
- Church Teaching »
- Opinion »
- Year of Faith
- Special Sections »