What's the most important part of a bridge? The supports, of course. Otherwise, the whole thing would fall into the water.
The ASA/USA Girls' Class A 16-Under Fast Pitch National Tournament is like a giant bridge over the Bryan/College Station area this week. Luckily, it's held up by some of the finest support people around.
From the umpires tirelessly working in the blazing sun to the field crews quickly working to wet the fields down and make them playable, the cities of Bryan and College Station have been getting excellent help all around this tournament.
The umpires alone have one of the hardest jobs. Not only do they have to concentrate on every call in a game, they also have to contend with the elements. If you haven't noticed, they tend to wear more than most of the fans, with padded chest protectors for the home plate umpire and long black pants for all of them.
Other staffers around the event have the umpires' backs, bringing them cold towels for their necks between innings and water or sports drinks if they need them.
Those same staffers, like Keith Fells of College Station, will work between games to clean trash out of the dugouts, spray the fields with water and rake the infields to even out any clumps from previous games.
Almost all the staffers at the tournament work for either Bryan or College Station. They are working shifts at the tournament because it's part of their job, but also to put the communities' best foot forward.
"Some of the teams are almost in awe because the fields are so nice," Fells said. "It's really nice to hear that. It makes the work all the more worthwhile."
Fells helps maintain the fields year-round for many different tournaments, but Kevin Coulson is in a different situation. He and some of his coworkers help out at the gates at all the different tournament sites. Hawk-eying people for tournament passes and wrist bands isn't much different from Coulson's normal job of keeping people safe around College Station pools.
"We're all lifeguards," Coulson said. "The College Station Aquatics office works all the gates. It's a nice change of pace from what we normally do. It's a little more relaxing."
Showing the dedication that many in the support staff display, Coulson and the other lifeguards will often work a shift at their pool before working another at one of the check-in tents at the tournament sites.
That dedication also extends to the concession stand workers. One of the girls said she has routinely been in the stand from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the tourney. The stands have seen 10 to 20 times the orders they typically receive at Little League games and various other activities.
One of the most important pillars supporting the tournament are the EMS workers. The most common ailment has been heat exhaustion, which can be dangerous to the athletes. A quick response and some counseling on how to avoid it in the future helps tremendously, according to the workers.
Despite the long hours, the heat and the hordes of people, the work is very much worth the effort for the support staff.
"I love this job," Coulson said. "Love the city, love the job my supervisor does with it. It's a great job, honestly."