Papa Hops returns

Yahtzee celebrates its win over Barrel Club in the championship game of the Papa Hops 16-inch Softball Tournament in July 2019. After being unable to host the tournament last summer due to the pandemic, organizers announced on April 29 that the annual charity tournament will return this July. (Review file photo)

Liam Hopkins knows that much work remains to be done and many details need to be ironed out during the next two months to prepare for the return of the Papa Hops 16-inch Softball Tournament.

However, Hopkins and members of the Tom Hopkins Memorial Foundation welcome the long hours of planning after a tough 2020 when the pandemic canceled the annual tournament.

After a one-year hiatus, the tournament will return, according to a Facebook post on April 29 from organizers.

The seventh annual tournament is scheduled for July 9.

“We’re going to have the tournament, which is awesome. We’ve received word that we have the permit to host it,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to go with what the city and the Chicago Park District says, be respectful and be safe for everyone. I’m excited to finally say we can have the seventh annual Papa Hops tourney.”

Tom “Papa Hops” Hopkins, was an avid supporter of youth sports. A Morgan Park resident and St. Cajetan Church parishioner, he died in March 2014 after battling cancer. Hopkins’ son, Liam, soon after began organizing a softball tournament in his father’s name, and it was held four months later in July.

The one-day tournament has become a staple on the South Side summer schedule in the years since, raising well over $200,000. Funds are donated to area families who need help with medical bills.

The Tom Hopkins Memorial Foundation has also donated thousands to the athletic programs at several local elementary schools, and it installed a lighted scoreboard for a field at Kennedy Park.

“To have the opportunity to host the tournament, it’s big because it’s our only event to raise money,” Hopkins said. “We did a raffle last year, which helped as we were able to help some families out and donate to Little League at Ridge Beverly and Kennedy Park.”

The biggest unknown to be determined over the next two months will be any potential limit on attendance.

The 32-team tournament features games at Kennedy Park, Mt. Greenwood Park and Beverly Park, all leading to the championship game held late in the night at Kennedy Park. As the tournament’s popularity has grown, attendance has steadily climbed to thousands of people in attendance. The 2019 tournament welcomed an estimated 5,000 fans for the semifinal and championship matchups at Kennedy Park.

“Whether it’s a head count, an entrance and an exit, we’ll do that,” Hopkins said. “It seems like Chicago is moving in the right direction, but we’re planning on being open to the public. We’ve reached out to teams, and the entire field is back. People are anxious to get back and play.”

Hopkins said the tournament will have an online retail store to help raise money, and it will open in June and feature a variety of Papa Hops gear.

As all the details are figured out, Hopkins is excited about the tournament’s return.

“Getting involved with local youth sports leagues and helping families impacted by cancer, which unfortunately never stops, our community has continued to support us,” Hopkins said. “The goal has always been to bring people together who support the event and support the foundation. We can’t wait.”