No matter how much time has elapsed since players first hit the field, Labor Day weekend in Sevastopol means one thing: softball.
“Everybody likes to play ball,” said Gary Welch, past president of the Sevastopol Alumni Benefit club. “I graduated in 1975 and I still think I can go play ball with the rest of the kids. That’s just your mind talking, your body doesn’t seem to cooperate.
“The next day you’ll smell a lot of Bengay around the park from the sore muscles that haven’t been used in a year, including myself. Everybody’s rubbing themselves down the next day to try and stay loose.”
Every Labor Day weekend, Sevastopol alumni return to the town ball fields for a three-day softball tournament. This year 25 graduating classes from 1969 to 2009 will reunite to play against each other, reminisce about high school days and raise money for local charities.
“People plan their vacations around it,” Welch said. “Everywhere you look there are classmates showing grandkids pictures, running and comparing notes about how families are doing. It’s just a camaraderie.”
It all started at the V Bar in Valmy, with alumni from different classes trash talking over a beer, arguing about which graduates were the best athletes. They decided to take the talk to the field.
“Next thing you know they said ‘let’s call them up and we’ll play a little softball game’,” Welch said.
The tournament originally raised money for the Sevastopol wrestling team, but 10 years ago the Sevastopol Alumni Benefit club took over. Now the nonprofit donates money raised through raffles and concession sales to local families, charities and the school. Money has gone to families dealing with medical bills or the aftermath of house fires, to local charities such as Door CANcer, scholarships for graduating Sevastopol students and school programs such as Destination Imagination.
According to secretary treasurer Tim Ash, the group has raised more than $58,000 in the last 10 years. The money comes mostly from raffle ticket and concession sales, which are substantial. Ash said last year they went through 120 pounds of ground beef, 25 pounds of hot dogs, 50 pounds of brats and 20 pounds of trippe. Raffle prizes are donated by local businesses.
“It’s unbelievable how generous the people are, the golf courses, supper clubs, motels,” Welch said. “They find the time to still see us as one of their favorites.”