By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It may not have exactly the same feel as the previous 21 Brad Holt Memorial tournaments, but make no mistake baseball — good baseball — will be played in honor of the former Legionnaire catcher.
“It will be a little bit different without having the American Legion team in it,” Stillwater Pioneers coach Tony Holt said. “That’s been a great tournament for a long time. For a number of years it’s been a great tournament and we’ve had a lot of people that have come in and done a great job. We’re trying to do the best we can. ... I wish we had some legion teams and continue that, but since we’re not, we’re getting some good high school teams here.”
Teams like Enid, Sand Springs and state powerhouse Piedmont now fill the bracket that used to be reserved for some of the state’s best legion teams, but the goal remains the same — win a title.
That’s a little easier said than done for the hometown Pioneers, considering twice Stillwater has been in the championship and twice come up empty — including last year’s loss to the Legionnaires.
So will the third time be the charm for this bunch?
“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Holt said. “We played in the showcase tournament at OSU last weekend. Even though we didn’t win a whole lot of games, we played a little bit better in certain areas and that’s something that we’re looking to do — just get these kids better.”
This tournament isn’t about trying to prepare high school teams for their next season. Nor is it about winning championships — no matter how elusive they are.
It’s about tradition. It’s about fun. Most of all, it’s about family and remembering a son, nephew and teammate that died well before his time.
“It’s extremely important to keep it going,” Holt said. “Obviously, it’s very important to my family — my brother Ron, his wife Becky and all the Holt group. The Stillwater American Legion post honored Brad’s memory 22 years ago and it means a lot to us as a family, and we certainly want to try to help out and keep that going.
“This summer, since there’s not a legion program I talked to Pat Zimmerman with our Stillwater Dugout Club and asked if we can still go ahead and do it. Everybody thought it was a good idea to get us another tournament right here in town where we wouldn’t have to travel, and it gives us a chance for us to play some more games. I’m just glad that our Dugout Club has continued that this year. Hopefully in the future, they’ll continue that as well. You never know, the American Legion team may come back sometime and that would be great since that’s where it all started, but if not hopefully in the future the Dugout Club will see fit to hopefully continue to maybe have a tournament in the summer.”
The Legionnaires may be noticeably absent from this year’s tournament, but even 22 years after Brad Holt’s death, the tournament still helps bring not only the Holt family together but the entire Stillwater community.
“It’s named after my nephew and it’s a great deal for our family, but this is a community-wide tournament and has been for a long time,” Holt said. “The Stillwater community steps up, helps out and makes a lot of donations. We want everybody to come to Stillwater and have a good time, where they want to come back. In all the year’s that we’ve had this tournament it’s been that way. People just enjoy being here. It’s a great atmosphere and all the members of the community make it special with some T-shirts and prizes. It’s a fun time and we’re looking forward to it again.”
For Holt, that’s what it’s all about — making sure everyone has fun. Why? Because, as Holt explained, that’s the way Brad would have wanted it.