July 12, 2011 11:05:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Congratulations to the city of Columbus.
For the past five days, the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority and Propst Park have played host to the Dizzy Dean 10-and-under South state baseball tournament.
Rain, temperatures in the 90s, and heat indexes well over 100 degrees have conspired against the All-Star event, but the tournament''s final teams standing -- Louisville and Columbus -- have survived and will play at 4 p.m. today to determine a champion.
Louisville, which lost to Columbus 11-1 on Sunday in a winners'' bracket game, beat Ackerman 6-2 on Monday to earn a return matchup against the only undefeated team remaining in the tournament. If Louisville wins at 4 p.m. today, it would force an "if necessary" game approximately 30 minutes later.
Tournament organizers arrived at this juncture after working through initial questions about the event''s format. Roger Short, executive director of CLRA, said he received a phone call from a Dizzy Dean district commissioner on Friday. Short said the district commissioner had received a phone call from a coach complaining that the tournament, which started Thursday, was scheduled to run through Tuesday.
Short said he informed the district commissioner that teams were only allowed to play two games a day, per Dizzy Dean rules, but he said he could re-do the tournament bracket to have it end Sunday, which is what he did.
Later that day, though, Short received a phone call from Danny Phillips, national director of Dizzy Dean Baseball. Short said Phillips asked him how one team could play three games in one day. Short said he changed the schedule of the tournament to satisfy the coach and the district commissioner, but was told by Phillips to change it back to the original schedule.
The questions about the schedule created confusion among players and coaches, leading some players to comment they thought the event was unorganized and that officials didn''t know what was going on.
Short said coaches, parents, and district administrators had ample time to see the schedule of the tournament and request changes be made. On the first weekend in June, a CLRA official went to Grenada and was given a list of teams assigned to the 10-and-under Dizzy Dean South state tournament. The next Monday, Short said he created a bracket and e-mailed it to Dizzy Dean officials and asked them to review it and to let him know if any changes needed to be made.
Short said he didn''t hear back from anyone. Two weeks before the tournament, Short said all coaches had copies of the bracket and times of games were listed on the CLRA website. He still didn''t hear from anyone requesting a change in the schedule.
It was until Friday morning, Short said, that he received a phone call alerting him about a potential problem with the schedule.
Given the distance teams like Ackerman, Clinton, East Central, Louisville, and Tupelo had to travel to participate and the high prices for gasoline, it''s natural some coaches and parents might have wished the tournament could have been completed sooner. It''s also not easy for everyone involved to schedule a vacation for this time of the year, or to get off work to see your son play in the middle of the afternoon.
But everyone involved should have known Dizzy Dean''s restrictions on the number of games in a day. They also should have been aware the guidelines are designed to protect players, especially pitchers, who already are limited to 12 innings in the tournament, from getting overworked.
In any tournament setting, you would hope your players have a chance to get as much rest as possible so they can be at their best. To ask any team to play more than two games in a day isn''t the right way to go, especially in July in the state of Mississippi.
Short said the fact that teams had a three-game guarantee might have contributed to questions about the schedule. Since the tournament is a double-elimination format, any third games played by teams didn''t count toward the final outcome of the event.
Questions about the quality of baseballs also didn''t derail the tournament. Despite games Thursday in which 24, 23, 25, and 19 runs were scored and games Friday in which 24 and 16 (twice) runs were scored, officials heard complaints from coaches and players that they were using "rubber" balls. Short said that wasn''t the case. He said all teams used balls teams that play in Columbus'' Propst Park league use during the season.
Short said teams used different balls starting Sunday after Dizzy Dean Baseball sent him new ones. The run count was similar to the output of the first two days, as 28, 18, and 12 runs were scored.
There might not have been as many home runs hit, and the tournament might not have finished as quickly as some would have liked, but there was plenty of solid baseball on display. There was aggressive and heads-up play on the bases, there were plenty of players shaking off bumps and bruises to stay in the game to battle the heat, and there was more than enough evidence that baseball is still a game that attracts a lot of interest and generates a lot of emotion.
Here''s hoping the adults involved in the tournaments remember it is a game for the kids and that the lessons their players learn at this age are the ones they will take with them as they move up the ladder. It''s important to remember winning always is a goal, but that you have to consider to what extent do you want to go to accomplish that goal?
It''s even more important for coaches and parents to support and to teach their players in the right ways and to encourage them to give their best at all times. Mistakes are going to happen. Pitchers are going to give up hits. Batters are going to strike out. But the joy is watching players overcome those bumps in the road and regrouping to make the next play.
You''re bound to see some of that maturation today. It will be difficult to tell how much the Louisville and Columbus players have grown as baseball players in he past six days, but they have learned plenty of lessons on what it means to be a part of a special event.
Congratulations to everyone involved.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. He can be reached at: [email protected]
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.