SYCAMORE – With three Kishwaukee Valley Storm teams playing instead of closer to eight or ten, and a venue in Beloit, Wisconsin instead of Sycamore, Steve Heide said the 20th Annual Storm Dayz Tournament will not feel like Storm Dayz.
"No. I used to live right over there," Heide said, motioning to the houses just to the north of the fields. It was I've minutes. And now it's going to be an hour. I had to get a hotel. So no, it doesn't feel like Storm Dayz because it's not here."
Then he pauses for a second.
"Well, if it rains it will feel like Storm Dayz," he said with a laugh.
Instead of taking place at the Sycamore Park District Fields, the tournament it'll be held at the Stateline YMCA sports complex in Beloit starting Friday. And this year the Storm only have a 15-and-under team, a 16u and an 18u.
Heide said he did not make the decision to play easily.
"I thought long and hard about this, I really did, if I was doing the right thing," Heide said. "I don't want to be the guy who gets the black eye. I think there are too many kids that want to play this game. I really think we're doing the right thing. We'll be safe and have lots of fun and put smiles back on their faces. And mine.
"We were torn both ways," he said. "I totally understand why they won't want to be out in this. But there's a number of parents like me who think we can do this safely up there. And we will.
It'll be the third tournament of the year for the 18u team, the second for the 16u, and the first for 15u. Both the 16u and 18u teams played June 12-14 at Wisconsin Dells, while Heide said the parents on the 15u team haven't been comfortable with the team playing in a tournament yet.
"They've only had a few practices," Heide said. "And you have to leave it up to the parents. I'm not going to fight that. I understand. ... We've had a lot of parent meetings about this."
Heide said all decisions by the Storm organization have been taken at the behest of parents. He said it's the main reason why there's just three teams this year.
He said the whole summer so far has been a balancing back between safety and wanting to continue to play.
"We need to get back to some normalcy," Heide said. "And for these girls, that's their love. Playing softball. We did it at the Dells and we did it safely. ... There's some contact in softball but nothing like soccer or basketball or football. But it's the 20th annual. We had to do it. It just came down to the girls wanted to play softball. And there's 70 teams going to be there. It shows you there's 70 teams that want to play softball. And I turned teams away."
Emily Puentes, going into her junior year as Sycamore and a player for the Storm, said coronavirus isn't on her mind when she's no the field.
"I think it's a concern for the parents more," Puentes said. "The game is still a game for us. ... It's still the same game for us."
Teammate Chelsea Born said she felt the same way.
"When we're on the field we don't think about it too much," Born said. "But our coach is constantly reminding us to socially distance remind us there is still a pandemic going on, which is kind of weird but do-able."
Both Born and Puentes play for the Sycamore High School team, which won the Class 3A State Championship in 2019 but had it's 2020 season wiped out.
"They got that ripped out from underneath them," Heide said. "You don't get that back. They're still the defending champions because no one won it, but I feel bad for them. And I feel sorry for coach Carpenter. It happens once then you get it taken away by something you can't see."