By Maria Wyllie
Explore Big Sky Associate Editor
BIG SKY – Although the Big Sky Softball League didn’t officially begin until 2000, the makings of the league were already stirring in the early 90s.
With few sports for local kids to participate in at the time, a group of parents started a girls’ softball team in the Bozeman league called the “Ophir Loafers.” But without a proper field to play on, they couldn’t host home games and had to travel to Bozeman to play, according to Jerry Scott, whose two daughters attended Ophir Elementary.
When Big Sky Resort offered up the old driving range as a playing field – an area that now parallels the ninth hole on the golf course –discussion began to build a real softball diamond in Big Sky.
Scott organized the first local softball tournament at the Big Sky Community Park in 1995, before there was even a field. It was a fundraiser for Ophir School with four softball teams including the Ophir Loafers.
“That [tournament] may have sparked an interest,” Scott said. “J.C. Knaub did a lot of the groundwork, and it just happened as a community event.”
Volunteers got together to pick up rocks and lay sod for a field, Scott recalls.
“That developed [into] a coed softball league, and I’ve had the pleasure of being on the Hillbilly Huckers for all these years.”
“Queen” Jean Palmer, official scorekeeper for the league, has also been involved in Big Sky softball since the beginning and says before official league play, “there was true and absolute beer league.”
“There was a keg of beer on first base, and you had to drink a beer before you could go onto second, and so on,” she said. “It was very unofficial.”
Official league play began in 2000, and there are now two softball fields complete with homerun fences, scoreboards and a total of 17 coed teams who competed this summer in preparation for the end of the season tournament.
“What you’ve seen is how it’s evolved in the past 20 years,” Scott said.
The 2014 Big Sky Softball League Tournament takes place Sept. 5-7 at the Big Sky Community Park and includes 16 competing teams. Friday games begin at 5:30 p.m., games beginning on Saturday at 10:15 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. Visit bigskysoftball.com for up to date information on schedules and scores.