By CAROLINE MURRAY
The year was 1981. Amsterdam native Marty Tambasco recalled a group of regulars at Scandors, a former bar located on the South Side of Amsterdam, who were burdened by a long winter, and, quite frankly, were bored.
That is when then-bar owner Nyle Nelson decided to organize a fundraiser for the Liberty Day Program of Montgomery County's Chapter of NYSARC, a statewide advocacy organization serving people with disabilities.
"There was a bunch of us guys, who were a lot younger back then, we all played softball, and [Nelson] came up with the idea of a winter softball game," Tambasco said.
Although it was spur of the moment, Nelson put together the inaugural softball game on the William H. Barkley school field. Nelson said there were around 30 participants back then, and they raised close to $300 for Liberty.
Thirty-three years later, the winter softball game lives on.
Nelson is hosting the games, plus a poker walk, Saturday at the former Chalmers mill site on Bridge Street in Amsterdam from 1 to 5 p.m.
The cost is $10 per walker or softball player, and all proceeds will benefit the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
SPCA representatives will be at various locations during the event with information about the organization, merchandise sales, and pets available for adoption.
"Everyone who comes and plays softball on Saturday has a chance to participate in the poker walk as well," Nelson said.
This is the first year Nelson decided to incorporate the walk into the softball game. He knows of other poker walks around the city, and wanted South Side businesses to have a chance to join in.
During the walk, participants will visit a series of establishments. At each establishment they will choose a playing card from a deck, and an employee will mark the participant's tally sheet with the card they draw.
Nelson said food will be provided at each location as well.
After the softball game, players have a chance to join the walk, too.
Softball teams consist of 20 players ranging in all ages. Nelson said they will play for about two hours, rotating between all the teams that enter.
At the end of the activities, everyone is scheduled to regroup at Herk's Tavern, where prizes will be handed out.
"It's a lot of leg work, but it is a joy ... it's a nice day," Nelson said.
Nelson and Tambasco both agreed the first winter softball game was the most memorable because they played during a heavy snowstorm.
"Maybe there were 30 participants, possibly 40, and some hearty souls, because it was in February ... in the dead of winter," Tambasco said.
Nelson said there was a period of time when the winter softball game did not take place, but he is excited today about giving the community a fun thing to do again this year, the third consecutive year.
Both Nelson and Tambasco said they will face the cold and participate Saturday.
Nelson said over the years, the participation rate has increased to more than 200 people, and they have raised close to $30,000 for different organizations.
Tambasco commended Nelson for all the efforts he has made to not only help an organization, but organize a day for the entire community to enjoy.
"It was Nyle's baby," said Tambasco. "He is the one that should be patted on the back. He sponsored it, put up with the organization and the hours."