There will be no middle ground, no half field, no partial McQuade Charity Softball Tournament this summer in Bismarck.
The 45th annual mid-summer classic will be held as a full field or not at all, said Shannon McQuade Ely, president of McQuade Distributing and granddaughter of Sam McQuade Sr., who founded the charity tournament nearly a half century ago.
“In my mind, right now, it’s an all-or-nothing deal,” McQuade Ely said. “We’re either able to run the whole big tournament or cancel it altogether.”
The iconic tournament is held annually in June throughout Bismarck-Mandan. This year’s tournament is still scheduled for June 26-28. Last year’s tournament drew 464 teams, the second-highest total ever.
But like everything else athletic this summer, organized softball is at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic and executive orders limiting the gathering of large groups for such activities.
McQuade Ely said the first issue facing the tournament is a decision by Gov. Doug Burgum, and whether an executive order limiting large gatherings has been relaxed or not.
“If there are still orders or social distancing, I don’t see how it will be possible to run a tournament,” McQuade Ely said. “Obviously we want everybody to be healthy. There’s just so much to consider that we don’t have an answer for.”
There also are other issues to consider, even if orders here have been relaxed.
“The biggest issue we have from logistics standpoint is we get a lot of umpires from out of state,” McQuade Ely explained. “If their states are hotspots at that time or they can’t travel or don’t feel comfortable traveling, we don’t want to run a half tournament if we can’t get umpires in.”
McQuade Ely said she’ll have a clearer picture of where the tournament stands the second week of May. USA Softball is meeting on May 11 and the McQuade Tournament board has a meeting May 12 to consider what actions USA softball will have taken. Local associations will also be making decisions regarding summer leagues.
“We’ll decide on a game plan May 12 based on the information we have at that time,” McQuade Ely said. “So many people are hoping we have it, but it’s just so conflicting. Our latest decision date is June 1. It will be made sometime between May 12 and June 1.”
The McQuade Tournament is the highlight of summer softball for many teams. Sam McQuade Sr. started the tournament with 103 teams in 1976. It surpassed 400 teams in 1985 and has been below that number just seven times since – never lower than 378 and up to as many as 472 in 2010. The one exception was for another issue out of anyone’s control.
Missouri River flooding in 2011 caused the McQuade to drop to 227 teams, that played while flood fighting was ongoing in Bismarck-Mandan.
“My fear is putting a lot of work into it and have a year like the year of the 2011 flood, where we run half a tournament and have a rain-out day,” McQuade Ely said. She said that will not happen this year.
Also, there is no way to move the tournament later in the summer.
“There’s no way to push it back. If it doesn’t happen on the dates we have it scheduled, we won’ be pushing it back. It’s just too hard to organize. That has never been an option. As of this moment, everything is being run as if it’s going to happen.”