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The best softball players in the world are preparing for the 46th Annual World Softball Tournament - which is being held at the Cottonwood Softball Complex Aug. 14-23.

The double-elimination tournament, sponsored by the International Softball Congress, will feature 48 teams, including host teams Page Brake and Miller Toyota. The teams will be drawn from among 27 different geographical regions and 16 travel leagues, including teams from Canada, New Zealand and Mexico, as well as the U.S.Radio personality Steve Klauke, considered the "premier fast-pitch softball play-by-play man in the country" by ISC Executive Director Milt Stark, stressed the level of play which the tournament will feature. "This is not softball, this is fast-pitch softball. . . softball is for everyone, fast-pitch is for athletes. You're going to see some of the top athletes in the world competing in the ISC (tournament)."

He was seconded by Gary Cleverly, manager of the Miller Toyota team. "I think the general public, when they hear the term softball, they think of eight or ten guys who look like John Goodman running around the diamond . . . fast-pitch softball is a very demanding sport . . . those who have never seen softball at its top level really owe to themselves to get out and see it."

The relationship benefits both the Salt Lake community and the ISC as well. "We've finally reached a major market. One of the perks of that is to become associated with the Utah Jazz network." Three of the tournament games will be telecast on the Utah Jazz network, and will appear on a tape-delayed broadcast on Prime Sports Network. Klauke also indicated that KISN-AM radio hopes to air as many of the games as possible during the course of the tournament.

For its part, the county has taken some steps to accommodate the tournament, including a number of capital improvements at the Cottonwood Softball Complex, where the tournament will be played. The most notable of these improvements is the addition of two 32-foot scoreboards. According to County Commissioner Jim Bradley, the investment is well worth it. "What this means in terms of dollars to the county . . . is somewhere in the three million dollar range."

Stark feels that might even be conservative. "I've seen published reports (from smaller communities) that are a little higher than that. It's almost impossible to get the concrete facts on that, but the figure I always use is several million dollars." Salt Lake can prepare for an invasion of sorts in August. "There are about a thousand players on the team rosters, and we figure that about half of them bring their families. Plus, we have fifty commissioners and we all bring our families."

"The tournament provides an opportunity for Salt Lake to showcase its ability to organize a premier sporting event," said Dave Hrechkosy, who represents tournament sponsor Coca-Cola.