ST. JOSEPH, MO. --
The ball fields are set and citizen-Airmen are primed to arrive here as the final two weeks build up to the Air National Guard's largest team sporting event.
Rosecrans Air National Guard Base will play host this year to softball players from across the nation August 15-18 during the 47th Annual Softball Tournament.
Approximately 40 teams from 12 states have registered to play in more than 150 games.
"We anticipate we will get a few more teams before registration closes on August sixth," said Lt. Col. Carl Johnson from the 139th Airlift Wing. He said teams can contact him to register.
Johnson said veteran team members will welcome old rivalries before the first pitch is thrown, and then they will dig in, swinging.
More than 500 players will compete, to include Guard members and their families as well as players from other services. An anticipated 500 visitors are expected to cheer them on, not counting the local spectators.
The tournament kicks off by the Missouri river Wednesday night with a home run derby and reception at the Heritage Park Softball Complex.
The opening ceremony is at 7:45 a.m. the following day with games running until Saturday, between 8:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. on the complex's five fields.
Arriving teams should prepare for the dangerous heat that has cooked the Midwest since this spring. Extended forecasts call for more of the same.
Triple-digit temperatures can make the games challenging, but it's for a worthy cause, said organizers.
Tournament proceeds and a silent auction will support the Missouri Guard's "Camp Guardian" for those with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as the Wounded Warrior Project. The auction includes authenticated, autographed sports memorabilia by Mickey Mantle and other celebrities.
The Air Guard has raised thousands in donations while promoting physical fitness and camaraderie since its first tournament at Fresno, Calif., in 1966.
"It's a very competitive tournament," said Johnson. He added that spectators can expect to see lots of action and strategy, with slow-pitch ball and a five home run progressive rule.
Johnson added that Missouri does well in the tournament, especially their women's team, which advances regularly to the finals.
Those interested in volunteering for the games can call 816-236-3452.
The most current tournament postings and information can be found on Facebook (www.facebook.com/angtournament2012