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City lands Babe Ruth Southeast Regional

Andalusia made a pitch and hit a home run. City officials were joined by Babe Ruth officials at the Andalusia Country Club for a press conference Thursday to announce the city will host the 2003 15-year-old Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Tournament from Friday, July 25 through Wednesday, July 30.

The tournament will use a round-robin format and include 10 teams from seven states, including the Andalusia Babe Ruth team as the host team and the District 8 Champions. The District 8 representative will be either Opp or Covington County ensuring that two local teams will be in the tournament. The Alabama State Championship team will also participate in the tournament.

The tournament will bring a big event to Covington County along with an economic boom.

"This is an exciting day for Andalusia," Dwight Mikel, director of the Department of Leisure Services, said at the press conference.

The tournament will also offer the chance of a lifetime for baseball players from throughout the southeast and families in the Andalusia area.

The players on the teams competing in the tournament must be housed with host families which creates countless memories for both the players and the host families.

Mikel recalled previous years when the city hosted tournaments and housed players with host families. He said the families and players often remain friends for several years and exchange correspondence, including Christmas cards, for several years after the tournament.

While the players will be staying with host families, their real family members and fans will be staying in area hotels and eating at local restaurants.

"We'll have teams from southern states come in and fill up the hotels," Andalusia Babe Ruth President Wem Mellown said. "It will be good for the economy and it will also be good for people who enjoy good baseball."

Alabama State Commissioner for Babe Ruth Baseball Eugene Reynolds, who also serves as an assistant regional commissioner for the southeast regional, said Andalusia has the special feel needed to host a regional tournament.

"They like to put it in a community the size of Andalusia and teach them more than baseball," Reynolds said. "There is one thing we have to keep in mind and that is this is for the youth."

Reynolds said this is a great opportunity for the city of Andalusia because it will allow the citizens to showcase their city and the surrounding area.

He said it will take a lot of work from volunteers to make the tournament a success.

"I appreciate all the support of the city and community," Reynolds said about his experiences in working with the city so far. "This is going to take lots of time and money, especially time.

"You'll be surprised what this will bring in for the community," he added. "You are looking at probably $100,000-plus for a regional tournament."

Mikel said the economic impact could go even farther than the revenue generated for businesses the week of the tournament. He pointed out that a top executive for a major company could be the parent of one of the players and fall in love with Andalusia. If that were to happen, the company's next facility could be located in Andalusia or the surrounding area.

"We need to all put our good foot forward," Mikel said.

He also said it is important citizens remember to just be themselves and show the players and fans who visit Andalusia "the feel of down home southern living."

Reynolds said one reason Andalusia was chosen to host the regional tournament is the community.

Mikel agrees that Andalusia is perfect to host the regional tournament.

"Hundreds of volunteers will be need to put this thing on," Mikel said. "I'm looking forward to the citizens of Andalusia stepping up and doing a good job like they always have."

Hosting a regional tournament is a great honor, but it can also serve as a test. A test, that if Andalusia passes, could result in the city hosting a Babe Ruth World Series in the near future.

This is the third regional for the city to host, but the first in 23 years. Andalusia last hosted a regional when the 1979-1980 regional tournament was held here.