The Evanston Express girls fast-pitch softball program takes a major step this Memorial Day weekend by hosting its first-ever tournament drawing  dozens of teams and hundreds of young players from around the Chicago region.


  The three-day Evanston Express Memorial Day Classic also will put on display the city’s much-improved softball venues, from the first-rate diamonds at James Park to the new-this-year varsity and JV layouts at Evanston Township High School.


  Play begins at Friday, May 22, at James Park between teams aged 12-and-under. The Express 12U plays there at versus the Sauganash Silver Storm, while on an adjacent field the Express 14U opens against Trevian Green.


  Round-robin play continues all day Saturday at James, ETHS and Crown Park, with Sunday’s elimination round leading to  championship games at at all three locations. Admission is free and a complete schedule can be viewed at 


  “This was a natural step for our travel softball program,” said Express tournament director Dan Managlia. “We’ve been funding everyone else’s programs all these years. This gives us a chance to raise some money. and our visibility.”


  Twenty-five teams in three age brackets paid $400 each to enter this ASA-sanctioned “B” level national qualifying event, with most of the funds paying for umpires and other expenses. Host programs earn extra revenue selling refreshments, tournament T-shirts and other souvenirs – funds that can be used for future training and travel opportunities.


  Managlia expressed thanks to the scores of parent-volunteers who signed up to work the fields and the concessions, to the Evanston Baseball & Softball Association, and especially to ETHS athletic director Chris Livatino.