The 2018 West Texas All-Star Softball Tournament kicked off this morning with the opening ceremony at the Ector County Coliseum. The tournament will host 75 all star teams ranging from U-8 to U-18 from all over West Texas in Odessa for a four day tournament being played at UTPB. It is back in the basin for the first time in seven years and it took a lot of hard work to make it happen.
"It's amazing to be able to get this back. It's been seven years since we've had it here and we've been fighting to get it back and we finally got it back and we plan on keeping this a tradition every four or five years," said Steven Mehaffy, Odessa Softball Association.
This year marks the 22nd year of the tournament. The guest speaker at the event was Permian softball alum Marlee Gabaldon. She grew up playing in these All-Star games, so seeing the growth softball has had in West Texas throughout the years makes this tournament even more special.
"It's so awesome. I went from sitting at a ceremony at a softball field to being at the coliseum. It's just so awesome to see how much softball has grown and I can't wait to see how much more it grows," said Gabaldon.
Gabaldon graduated from Permian in 2011. She went on to play in college at the University of Texas and played in the Women's Softball College World Series For the Odessa native, reminiscing back to when she was in these girls shoes made speaking to them a unique moment.
"It puts everything into perspective of why I played. At first, I played because I loved it and I still love it but being an example to these little girls and being a good role model is now why I keep softball in my life. I want them to know that they can be just as great as the Olympic players," said Gabaldon.
As this tournament continues to grow the sport of softball all over West Texas, for everyone involved in making this successful one goal will remain the same.
"Just watching the girls have fun and enjoying the weekend and just to see the smiles they get just to going out on the fields is amazing," said Mehaffy.
It definitely looks like they're excited and going to have a lot of fun. The festivities over the next four days are expected to bring 12,000 attendees total with 5,000 out of town visitors. The tournament is from July 12th through July 15th.