Abrahamson Tourney is more than just softballThe buzz around Braun Park was electric for last weekend’s 12th annual Ashley Abrahamson Memorial Softball Tournament. Hundreds of people crowded the Cloquet softball complex last weekend watching game after game, soaking in the atmosphere of summer ball.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – The buzz around Braun Park was electric for last weekend’s 12th annual Ashley Abrahamson Memorial Softball Tournament. Hundreds of people crowded the Cloquet softball complex last weekend watching game after game, soaking in the atmosphere of summer ball.
Most folks come away with more than medals and memories, however. This tournament tends to leave a person with an extra appreciation for loved ones and precious moments spent together.
“It’s not just a tournament,” said Ashley’s mother, Kathy Abrahamson. “It’s very emotional. It’s such a nice way to remember who Ashley was. It’s very enjoyable.”
Ashley, 13, was a talented three-sport athlete who loved to play softball, basketball and volleyball growing up, but was tragically killed in a car accident in Illinois in 2000. Neighbor and family friend Ron Tondryk coached Ashley over the years, and when she tragically passed away he created the tournament in her honor.
“This tournament is for Ashley,” Tondryk said. “She was a player who loved the game. She wanted to pitch, so I told her to throw 50 pitches with dad. She threw 100. That’s the kind of kid she was.”
Tondryk’s youngest daughter, Sarah, played softball, basketball and volleyball with Ashley as the two grew up together and were neighborhood best friends. Sarah is now a tournament co-director, remembering her childhood teammate and friend.
“She was supposed to play on our team that summer she passed away,” Sarah said. “We had her jersey in our dugout with us.”
Sarah said she played in the tournament for three years or so at Sather Park in Scanlon with eight teams. Nowadays, the tournament is played at Braun Park and two dozen teams attend.
Nearly 300 girls played on 24 teams in almost 70 games on five fields this year.
“It’s been getting bigger ever since it started,” Sarah said. “It’s been cool to see it grow and all of teams from out of town come play. It’s so nice to see everyone play to remember her.”
It really is a first-class event.
Kathy and her husband, Jim, donated T-shirts and more to all of the teams that participated this year. Along with much of their family, they stick around the entire day watching the action, awarding the winning teams after things are finished.
A parade of teams is always held on day one of the event, while the prestigious Ashley Awards are distributed by the Abrahamsons the following afternoon, going to those who best represent who Ashley was as a player and person.
“That’s the pinnacle of the tournament,” said Ron Tondryk, noting that one player from each team receives the Ashley Award. “It represents someone who loves the game. It is fun seeing those girls hold up their
Ron Tondryk explained that although the weekend can get very competitive at times, the emphasis isn’t just on winning.
“Everyone bats, everyone plays,” he said. “It’s about
In the 12-and-Under division, Northwestern beat Grand Rapids for the title, while the Superior Ice topped Northwestern for the U-14 crown. Local teams featured included two U-12 squads – the Cloquet Hammers and Cloquet Gordy’s Hi-Hat – while the Minnesota Dynamite of Cloquet and Carlton played in the U-14 division.
Ron Tondryk estimates around 250 teams have competed over the years, with nearly1,500 girls taking the field in honor of Ashley.
“It’s amazing to think about,” he said. “You can’t help but love this tournament. It’s fun. We already have teams signed up to play next year. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun work. We have a great support staff.”
“I want to thank the Cloquet Youth Baseball/Softball Association, the umpires, grounds crew and concession stand workers,” added Sarah Tondryk. “It was a long weekend, but they make our job so much easier. They did great.”
Sarah also thanked the Abrahamsons for their continuous support throughout the years.
Kathy Abrahamson felt the same.
“We’re so grateful for Ron and Sarah and all that they have done over the years, not just the tournament, but they’ve always been there for us,” she said. “It’s a top-notch event that runs itself. We sure have a great time.”