In his memory: softball tourney for Mark Garrett

When Mark Garrett passed away unexpectedly in May, the Warren County softball community lost a respected umpire, and a friend.

The inaugural Mark Garrett Memorial Softball Tournament, scheduled for Aug. 10 and 11 at Betts Park, will make sure his legacy lives on through a sport he loved.

“Having a tournament in a sport that he taught me since I was in tee-ball is priceless,” said Mark’s nephew, Mikey Garrett. “My family and I are just thankful to have something like this put together and can’t thank all the people enough who put it together. Having a softball tournament, a Little League field, and two pool tournaments in his name just shows what kind of guy my uncle was.”

In addition to being an accomplished pool player, Mark Garrett, who was 40, was a well-thought-of PIAA softball and basketball official for many years.

This softball tournament holds special significance for Mikey, who spent many summer nights learning the game with his uncle, and spending time with the man he considered his best friend. Playing in a tournament in Mark’s name means much more than just the typical weekend of softball Mikey and his father, Mike are used to.

“I’m so excited and nervous at the same time to play in his tournament. It’s something I won’t forget,” said Mikey. “Usually I don’t care about (winning), I just love playing the sport. This one, though, is something special. In a perfect world, I would win it all at the end. If my team does end up losing then I’ll tell them what my uncle always told me: ‘head up, this isn’t the MLB.'”

In addition to his long career as a PIAA referee and umpire, Mark Garrett competed in basketball and track at Warren Area High School, graduating in 1991. In 2010, he was nominated for induction into the Warren County Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player, coach, and official.

“One of the things I loved about him (as a coach) was that he gave everyone a chance,” said Mikey. “That would be one of the main reasons kids that had him, loved him. It didn’t matter if you were an all-star or a first-year player, my uncle played you. Everyone got a shot on the field.”

Tournament organizer Jon Hoffman, a friend, says that the Mark Garrett Memorial Tournament is a great way to remember Mark’s impact on the community.

“The reason we’re having it is to get some kind of memorial like the one for Terry Ristau,” said Hoffman. “We want it to be a continuous thing. Mark meant a lot to everyone involved, and he meant a lot to the town. We wanted to do something for him to keep his memory going.”

An entry fee of $100 per team will go to the Mark Garrett Memorial Fund set up through PNC Bank, and the proceeds distributed according to the wishes of the Garrett family. Donations from the fund will go to the Warren County Youth Baseball Softball Association, the local Little League organization renaming a softball field in their longtime umpire’s memory, and also to Caring For Life. Caring For Life is a Warren-based charity which helps families who have children with serious illness by providing care packages and aiding in medical costs.

According to Hoffman, a number of individuals/friends have offered to volunteer their services for the event. Other softball leagues around Warren County have also helped in the cause, providing money, equipment, and park fees to the first-year tournament.

“I’m expecting around 15 to 20 teams to participate,” said Hoffman. “Right now, I only have money from five, and commitments from five more, but I’m getting phone calls and emails every day from teams who want to sign up.”

Anyone interested in fielding a team in the tournament should contact Hoffman at 688-1906.

“I know my uncle will be watching everyone playing and spectating,” said Mikey Garrett. “He will be so glad to see everyone playing a game that he loved so much. He’ll have front-row seats to every game and he will be cheering for everyone.”