All-Star preps continue

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 5, 2003

Andalusia earned the right to host the 13- to 15-year-old 2003 Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Tournament in late July.

A lot of hard work went into securing the opportunity to host the tournament, but city officials still have a ton of work ahead of them as they continue to plan and prepare for the arrival of 10 teams and their fans.

Dwight Mikel, Director of the City of Andalusia's Department of Leisure Services, recently updated Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson and the members of the city council on the status of tournament operations. Mikel discussed the ongoing preparations at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

He reviewed the preparations again during a Thursday morning interview at his office. The interview took about an hour as Mikel was constantly interrupted by telephone calls, incoming messages on his Southern Linc and visitors.

Mikel and his staff are extremely busy every summer and the additional duties associated with hosting a regional tournament have made all of them active with a long list of duties.

The tournament begins on Thursday, July 24 when the teams check in followed by a pre-tournament banquet. The banquet serves as an ice breaker as the players and coaches from the different teams are introduced to each other and tournament officials, Mikel said.

The actual tournament games begin on Friday, July 25 with Opening Ceremonies slated to be held prior to the 8 p.m. game featuring the hometown Andalusia All-Stars.

Currently, Mikel said the biggest project for tournament officials remains finding housing for the players.

"We are looking to house the players through a host home system," Mikel said. "The kids will be grouped in minimum groups of two at homes within the community.

Mikel said the way officials would like to house the players from the 10 teams is through cooperation with churches in the area and their congregations.

"We are currently working through the larger churches," Mikel explained. "What we would like to do is assign teams to a larger church (with players staying in six or seven homes of church members) to give that extended family feeling.

"We are trying to keep them in a central area with kids their own age so they can interact," Mikel added.

Another avenue for players to interact with their peers will be at a canteen planned to be set up at LBW Community College, the site of the tournament.

"We will also be having a canteen-type area so they can interact with other players and folks their own age," Mikel said.

The canteen will also be equipped with arcade games, a television, pool table and ping pong table. Snacks will also be available for the players at the canteen.

The plan also includes having hostesses who will serve as a social secretary, concierge and friend to the players.

Another task tournament officials face is selling advertisements for the official Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Tournament Program. Mikel said committee members are currently trying to sell ads and if any business owners want to confirm the legitimacy of a salesperson to please call Johnson Park at 222-2714. Business owners may also call Johnson Park to get information about how to purchase an ad in the program.

Finding host families for the players, however, remains the main objective for tournament officials. Mikel said the host families will be responsible for meals, but eight of the meals will be provided by the youth baseball league. The meals provided will be four lunches and four dinners, Mikel said.

A laundry service will also be used to clean the players' uniforms, Mikel added.

The opportunity to host players is something requiring time and effort, but something filled with rewards.

"We realize it's a sacrifice for families to host these kids so we are offering support activities," Mikel said, referring to the canteen and other social functions for the players. "It's a sacrifice, but we know that if you host one of these kids, if you are ever given the opportunity again in the future you will re-up."

The 13- to 15-year-old 2003 Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Tournament will feature 10 teams and will be played at Foshee Field on the campus of LBW Junior College from Friday, July 25 through Wednesday, July 30. The tournament will use pool play to determine the top four teams. The top two teams from each of the two pools will then play single-elimination games. The Andalusia All-Stars will participate in the tournament as the host. Also, either the Covington County All-Stars or the Opp All-Stars will participate in the tournament as the district champion.