By ADAM SHINDER
As two decades of The Recorder/Robert J. Flint Memorial Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament grow nearer, Matt Flint can only marvel at how the Labor Day weekend tradition hasn't just kept up its course -- it's still gaining steam.
"It's funny. It's kind of growing," Flint said. "I got a call from a guy in Albany, and he's bringing a team up from Albany after they heard about the tournament. It's not only sustaining, but it's growing in popularity."
The tournament was born 17 years ago as a tribute to Matt Flint's father, Robert Flint, who died in 1996. For the first 15 years, it was run under the direction of Matt's older brother, Tom Flint, until Tom's death two years ago following a battle with cancer.
Now, for Matt Flint, his family and the members of the Mohawks -- the team he and his brother played on in the Amsterdam Men's Recreation Softball League -- the Labor Day weekend tournament has an added significance.
"For my family, it's a special thing," he said. "It was named in honor of my father, and with the passing of my brother a couple years ago, it's become an even bigger family event. And, when I say 'family,' that's not just the Flint family, but the Mohawks family -- the team my brother and I played with -- and, even bigger, the family of the rec softball league."
This year, the tournament will likely feature eight to 10 teams, who will be seeded at a meeting tonight, meaning between 125 and 150 players will take part in the two-day, double elimination event across the street from Lynch Literacy Academy at Four Diamonds. Action will get underway Saturday around 9 a.m. and, weather permitting, the championship game should wrap up around 4 or 5 p.m. Sunday.
The holiday weekend gives the tournament a little added flexibility in case of weather problems, Matt Flint said.
"We like Labor Day weekend," he said. "Just in case the weather doesn't cooperate, you have Monday to go to, if you need to, instead of pushing it to the following weekend."
The tournament also serves as an unofficial farewell to summer -- and to the softball season -- before fall weather kicks in.
"For the players who play, it's probably the last time they'll be playing before they put the gloves and cleats away until next year," Matt Flint said. "It's a good way to kind of finish off the summer, get ready for fall sports and whatever else they may be involved in."
And, as the tournament continues its march toward two full decades, it's engendered a certain amount of loyalty and enthusiasm from those who come back to play year after year.
"Most of the guys playing this weekend, a lot of them have played in every tournament," Flint said. "A lot of them have probably played for 15 years or so. It's definitely something that people look forward to.
"If you ask anybody there this weekend, 'Where are you gonna be next year on Labor Day weekend?' they know exactly where they're gonna be: At Four Diamonds, playing in the tournament again."
Contact ADAM SHINDER at firstname.lastname@example.org