The inaugural event turned out to be a big success, with 15 teams and 225 softball players from across the metro Atlanta area participating at the NYO softball fields at Chastain Park.
“We try to support Andee’s Army when we can and we talked about [starting a softball tournament] last summer,” NYO softball commissioner Brian Raley said. “We got one started this year and everything turned out great. We had a lot of youth softball programs come and participate and it was very successful.”
Among those in attendance was 17-year old Sandy Springs resident Andee Poulos, who was the inspiration for the creation of Andee’s Army.
An eighth-grader at Holy Innocents’ and an NYO softball player at the time, Andee entered the hospital in January, 2011 with a severe headache and was diagnosed with an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), an abnormal opening between arteries and veins that ruptured in her brain.
While the AVM was successfully removed, Andee was unable to walk, talk or eat for 19 months. However, she began to dramatically improve after that and is still improving as she undergoes therapy.
Now using a walker to help herself get around, Andee threw out the opening pitch before the championship game of the 14U division.
She also participated in a check presentation for $2,500 by Andee’s Army to CURE, an organization that offers assistance to families of children with brain tumors.
“It means a lot for her when fundraisers come up and to do a fundraiser in the sport that she cared so deeply for and played for so long,” Andee’s father John Poulos said. “She played at NYO for some eight years and then middle school going into high school, so softball was her deal and it makes her feel really, really good to participate in something so successful. She’s excited for the prospect of this continuing to go on every year.”
The tournament was divided into three age groups – 14U, 12U and 10U.
In the 14U division, two NYO teams – the Rampage and the Wolfpack – were joined by the Sandy Springs Storm, the Twin Creeks Twisters of Cherokee County and the West Cobb Combat.
The 12U age group featured the NYO All-Stars and NYO Select, along with the Alpharetta Attack, Murphey Candler Cobras of Marietta and the Sandy Springs Storm.
Two more NYO squads – the Bombers and the Heat – were represented in the 10U division, along with the Sandy Springs Storm, the Ocee Park Stars of Johns Creek and the Murphey Candler Cobras.
Each team played a minimum of four games in a round-robin format, then moved on to a double-elimination setup.
Age-group champions are the Twin Creek Twisters (14U), the NYO All-Stars (12U) and the Sandy Springs Storm (10U).
With the success of the inaugural softball tournament, Andee’s Army – which also sponsors a 5K road race at Holy Innocents’ in February — and NYO are planning for a second edition next summer.
“That was the plan,” Raley said. “We want to make this an annual event. We had 15 teams this year and we want to invite more teams next year. We want to expand it with an 8U division. We want to continue to grow this event for years to come.”