City to host Babe Ruth events

Published 12:59 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Covington County and the city of Andalusia hit a “home run” after it was recently announced the Andalusia Sports Complex will host four regional Babe Ruth softball tournaments this summer — events that should provide an economic boost for the area.

Dwight Mikel, director of leisure services for the city of Andalusia, said the city will host the Southern regional tournaments for the 6-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under Babe Ruth softball leagues.

The 6-and-under tournament will take place from Thurs., July 2, through Mon., July 6. The other three tournaments will be held two weeks later, from Thurs., July 16, through Mon., July 20.

“Due to the size of our community, we had to host these regionals on two separate weekends,” Mikel said. “We physically don’t have enough motel space to accommodate what we expect to be a total of between 45 and 50 teams in all four tournaments combined.”

The 6-and-under tournament should consist of 25 teams, including a host team made up of players from the South Alabama Babe Ruth League. The other three tournaments will have eight teams each — one host team and one team from each of the region’s states of Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

Mikel said the city has a good reputation among the national Babe Ruth organization because of its previous success in hosting the World Series in 2007 and regional tournaments in 2003 and 2004. However, a major change from those tournaments is that this year there will be no host families.

“Babe Ruth still has the host families at the World Series level, but they no longer have them for the regional tournaments,” Mikel said. “This year, the teams will be staying in hotels, which is going to be an enormous economic boom for our community. When they stayed with the host families in previous years, there were limited hotel costs and they were also fed out of those homes.

“Now, we’re looking at hotel revenue and restaurant revenue, in addition to just the normal gasoline purchases, retail purchases and other economic impacts that normally follow people coming in for events like this.”

Andalusia is one of two locations that will host the Southern regionals for Babe Ruth Softball — Richmond, Va., will host the regionals for the 8-under, 10-under and 12-under divisions. Mikel said Babe Ruth Softball originally asked Andalusia to host the 6-under tournament from July 10-13, but there was a scheduling conflict that was quickly resolved.

“They wanted us to originally host it on the domino tournament weekend, and we told them we couldn’t do that,” he said. “But they had no problem whatsoever with us doing it the week prior.”

Mikel said the city has a strong reputation as a reliable host for large-scale tournaments. He mentioned that in 2008, one of the Babe Ruth World Series sites was unable to host the event and Andalusia’s name came up in preliminary discussions as a possible replacement site.

“Due to some financial problems in the host city, Babe Ruth lost their host of the 12-under World Series in a community in Pennsylvania,” Mikel said. “And without us even knowing it, our name came up in conversation as a community who is capable of putting out a first-class operation in short order.

“Now, we were mentioned in the very early stages of relocation. It never got much further than that, because a lot of parents had already reserved flights and hotels and things like that, so they ended up just moving the site 125 miles within the state of Pennsylvania. But it was an honor just to have been considered as somebody who could put together an excellent program on a short notice.”

In addition, Mikel said this year’s regional tournaments will serve as an excellent gauge of the city’s ability to host the Babe Ruth World Series in 2011.

“We believe this is going to be an excellent opportunity economically for our community,” he said. “It’s also going to serve as a very good working test program for our 2011 World Series. If we can handle the 40 or 50 teams we’ll see at these regional events, then handling the 10 teams we’ll see at the World Series should be like child’s play.”