There are fans at the Women's College World Series.
And then, there are addicts.
Among the thousands who pack Hall of Fame Stadium every spring, there are a devoted few who have come from afar to the series and have come year after year. They consider it their vacations. They take time off work. They clear their calendars to make it happen.
They are hooked on softball.
And they admit to the diagnosis.
Beazie Maurin became a WCWS addict in 2001 when her beloved LSU Tigers made the field and she made the trip.
“I had such a good time, I just make it my vacation,” she said. “The people of Oklahoma were just like Cajun people — ‘Welcome. Welcome. We're glad you're here.'”
Now, the Reserve, La., resident is here every spring, tailgating in the same spot just inside the stadium gates. She's so well known that when she pulled in Thursday morning, the parking attendants knew her.
Of course, they have good reason to remember; Beazie offers them food from her tailgate every year.
Now, even though her Tigers are gone, eliminated from this year's series after losing Saturday night, Beazie remains. You can find her tailgating near the Hall of Fame or cheering in Section 8.
Today, we celebrate the diehard fans.
They are WCWS junkies — and proud of it.
George and Beth Maley, Tucson, Ariz.
George Maley, 88, and his daughter Beth, 59, have attended the Women's College World Series every year for nearly a decade.
The Maleys, from Tucson, Ariz., meet every summer at Hall of Fame Stadium, with George's other daughter and son-in-law, Jim and Stephanie Buchs, who make a 10-hour drive from Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“We love softball,” Beth said. “We're huge softball fans. I've lived in Arizona for 30 years and have always loved the sport. It's a great opportunity to meet up with (the Buchs) and have a good time.”
Jim Buchs said the annual reunion in Oklahoma City has become a tradition they hope continues for years.
“My wife and I started coming because it became a family event,” Buchs said. “Not only do I get to spend time with my father-in-law, George, we get to the do the tourist things while we're in town.
“Our first one, we didn't really expect anything because we had never been before. Now it's the first thing we put on the calendar every year. We meet new people every year. We have friends we sit next to. Every year, we catch up on what's going on in each other's lives. It's a lot of fun.”
Lena Ramirez, Austin, Texas
Austin resident Lena Ramirez has attended the Women's College World Series 17 consecutive years. Like many fans who renew all-session WCWS tickets, she can't imagine a summer without making the drive up Interstate 35 to Oklahoma City.
“My father played softball for many, many years,” Lena said. “We've grown up with the sport, love the sport. My dad 17 years ago asked me if I wanted to go. I've been back every year since.”
Ramirez's passion for softball has been passed to the next generation. They own six WCWS seats in different sections.
“We got hooked,” Lena said. “We have three seats right behind home plate, some of the best seats in the house for such a great event.”
Over the years, Lena has made dozens of new friends and seen other softball converts make a similar commitment to attend every year.
“This is part of our vacation,” Lena said. “It started with just me and my mom and dad. Then we started bringing our nieces when they were around eight or nine. Now they come every year.
“We meet new people every year. You hook up with them the following year. It's basically our annual family reunion.”
Sinah Goode, Flower Mound, Texas
Sinah Goode of Flower Mound, Texas, has lived in Norman, Baton Rouge, Phoenix and several other cities. It was when she lived in Omaha, Neb., nearly three decades ago that Goode got hooked on softball. Back then, Omaha annually hosted the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) National Tournament.
Goode estimates she's attended at least 15 Women's College World Series, including the late '70s when Omaha hosted.
“When the AIAW first started, what was interesting is there weren't divisions. All schools, big and small, played in the same division,” Goode said. “But it was really good softball.”
Back in those days, John F. Kennedy, in Martinez, Calif., won the first three softball national titles (1969, 1970 and '71).
Other national champions included schools such as Texas Women's University, Cal State-Chico, Emporia State, Eastern Connecticut State and Bloomsburg. The NCAA began softball championships in 1982.
“Softball has gotten better but it was really good back then, too,” Goode said. “The bigger schools didn't play.”
Goode is among grass roots fans that celebrate softball's growth. Every WCWS game is now on national television.
“The other night, to see a crowd of 9,000, it was really wonderful,” Goode said. “Fans are enthralled by the skill. It's a fast moving game, an interesting game. It's so much fun to watch.”
Beazie Maurin, Reserve, La.
Beazie Maurin, from Reserve, La., is a good example of a softball junkie. Maurin, 61, has attended the Women's College World Series 12 consecutive years.
Maurin is part of a group that calls themselves the “Crew of Chick-a-Boo” that sits in Section 8. It explains why Maurin has rubber and stuffed chickens as part of her ritual.
“It's such a great event,” Maurin said. “We all have a good time and everyone takes care of us.”
Softball's popularity has increased every year. Friday and Saturday night sessions were played in front of standing-room-only sellouts of 9,000-plus.
“I've always liked the game but this is special,” Maurin said. “This is a big stage like a Big Dance so let's crown the queen. I come back every year to see who will end up being crowned queen.”
Maurin is an LSU fan but enjoys the event even if the Tigers don't make it to Oklahoma City.
“It's the best eight teams in the nation,” Maurin said. “The competition is so good. It's great softball.”
Many fans that make the annual trek to Hall of Fame Stadium rave about how well they're treated in Oklahoma City, whether it's stadium workers or people at restaurants or around town.
“Oklahoma City takes care of Louisiana,” Maurin said. “We love it here. Everyone is so nice and down to earth.”
The Women's College World Series once again is busting out the seams at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. This year's Friday night and Saturday night sessions were sold out on Thursday. Standing-room-only crowds of 9,000-plus those two nights top the all-time attendance chart.
Total WCWS attendance for each year
(22 years in OKC)
Note: 1996 WCWS was played in Columbus, Ga.
WCWS atendance average records
* through Sunday
WCWS single-session records
Year (session); crowd
2012 (Saturday night): 9,310
2012 (Friday night): 9,209
2012 (Sunday afternoon): 9,167
2011 (Saturday night): 9,080
2010 (Friday night): 8,694
2009 (Saturday night): 8,475