Feature: Cathedral City Classic Continues as Powerhouse Tournament

Feb. 24, 2010

by Amy Hughes -

Kirk Walker had an idea.

The Oregon State head softball coach had been taking his team to the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., every few years and started to wonder why there wasn't a similar event on the west coast. Having spent a number of years in Southern California as a student and later an assistant coach at UCLA, Walker had played men's fastpitch at the Big League Dreams complex in Cathedral City, Calif., near Palm Springs.

'We had gone to the Leadoff about every other year,' said Walker, 'and UCLA and Arizona never made the trip out there. Half of the Pac-10 schools were looking for another place to play. There were already big tournaments in Phoenix, Fullerton, Las Vegas and San Diego. That's when I thought of Palm Springs and the Big League Dreams complex. It was a perfect fit.'

Walker's dream is now in its seventh year of existence. Teams will take to the fields at the Big League Dreams complex in Cathedral City, Calif., this Thursday, February 25-Sunday, February 28.

Planning for the inaugural Cathedral City Classic, which took place in February of 2004, started late in 2001. Walker, who had spent time as part of the USA Softball coaching pool, knew that the U.S. Olympic Team would be touring in preparation for the Athens Olympics. With Arizona head coach Mike Candrea also serving as the head coach of Team USA, Walker's top priority for what is now billed as the Cathedral City Classic became commitments from Candrea and from then-UCLA head coach Sue Enquist for the Bruins participation. Both said yes.

'Once I had UCLA, Arizona and the Olympic Team, I knew this would work,' said Walker. 'From that point, I went after the highest ranked teams I could find that either didn't normally participate at the Leadoff or weren't invited for that year. From that first year, it was immediately a very high-RPI event and I felt like people would come because the talent was there.'

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