EDITORIAL: Home-run weekend

Tupelo welcomes 3,200 competitive athletes and their families from across the country this weekend in two championship tournaments: The Dizzy Dean World Series and the USSSA Slow Pitch World Series.
Both organizations will use city-owned, city-maintained fields at the Ballard Park Sportsplex (baseball) and at the Veterans Park softball complex, two of the best recreation investments the city ever made.
Landing both tournaments during the same week is like hitting a home run in sports tourism, and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has devoted almost 500 man hours and two full weeks to prepping all the facilities and supporting the network of employees and volunteers necessary to do everything from mowing grass, to cleaning up after every contest, and maximizing the sites’ curb appeal.
Parks and Rec director Don Lewis said Thursday the department’s full maintenance crew and most other personnel are on duty for the weekend event, working both sports complexes.
Dizzy Dean Baseball is named for the late, great Mississippian, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher and Baseball Hall of Fame legend, Jerome “Dizzy’ Dean. It runs baseball programs for boys and girls ages 5-19. Its 10-year-old and 12-year-old World Series starts today in Tupelo, extending into next week.
The USSSA Slow Pitch World Series, which started Thursday, is a competition for adult players that is nationwide – and immensely popular in the South. The USSSA was founded as the United States Slo-Pitch Softball Association, but is now better known by its initials, and is officially the United States Specialty Sports Association, which reaches into several different sports.
The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, which recruited the tournaments in tandem with Parks and Rec, projects a $600,000 direct economic impact for hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues and in various retail sales.
The approximately 3,200 visitors have filled the city’s hotels and motels.
In addition, an opening celebration for the Dizzy Dean tournament’s 26 teams and fans drew 1,000 guests to the Tupelo Furniture Market on Thursday night, an official, contracted part of the tournament, catered by a Tupelo restaurant.
Dizzy Dean teams are expected to stay an average of almost six nights in Tupelo; the tournament ends July 22.
The USSSA Slow Pitch World Series average stay is calculated at two nights, but the tournament ends Saturday.
Tupelo, partnering with the private sector, spent millions building the baseball and softball complexes for both regular-season play and the lucrative tournament and post-season markets.
This weekend’s big event is the kind of success envisioned, but competition is fierce. Southaven has seven Dizzy Dean tournaments later this month.

NEMS Daily Journal

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