By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – When opportunity knocked, there was no way Neal McCoy and Seth Gaines weren’t going to answer with a yes.
McCoy is the sports director for the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Gaines is one of the sports directors at Tupelo Parks and Recreation.
Together, they and many others in their respective offices work hard to bring events to town that will attract visitors – in the case of a baseball tournament, say, a bunch of teams that will stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants and go home happy and rather lighter in the pockets than when they arrived.
It’s the original, old-fashioned economic stimulus, seems to me.
And if folks enjoy themselves and decide they want to come back next year, why, that’s even better.
Last year, they had already sewn up an agreement for the 2009 Dizzy Dean World Series championships for 10- and 12-year-olds to be decided here, an event with a total of 32 teams in the two age groups.
“Hey, we were very excited about that,” Gaines told me the other day.
Then, to continue their sports marketing efforts, they headed to Orlando for a convention of the USSSA, a national governing body for a wide variety of sports including softball – where it got started – and baseball.
“We wanted to get our name out there, let them know we were interested in being a major player in some big tournaments, like regionals and nationals,” Gaines said.
While there, “another opportunity presented itself,” McCoy said.
The USSSA’s softball director allowed as how they were looking for a 2009 World Series site in west Tennessee or north Mississippi. As many as 50 teams in a variety of age groups would be involved.
Say, are you Tupelo guys interested?
“We looked at him and said, ‘Yeah, we’re interested,'” Gaines said.
“You don’t pass up a chance like that to get new business,” McCoy said.
Then, of course, they double-checked their calendar. Yep, same weekend as the opening of the Dizzy Dean events.
“Hey, we knew we could make this happen,” Gaines said.
So his Parks and Rec folks will be fighting a war on two fronts next weekend, with baseball at the Ballard Park Sportsplex and softball across town at the Eastwood and Veterans softball complexes.
“I feel very confident this is going to work,” Gaines said.
Something like 80 teams will be in town. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, a lot of hotel beds. A lot of business, all the way around.
And when Tupelo pulls it off – successfully manages everything involved in putting on two major events at the same time on opposite ends of town – it’ll send a signal that the city should be on the radar for even bigger events.
“There are tournaments out there with 100-plus teams that we’d like to be able to bid on in the future,” Gaines said. amp”When they ask us if we can handle it, we can point to this experience, tell them we put on two excellent World Series with a split staff.
And it might look like Christmas in July for local businesses.
John L. Pitta (firstname.lastname@example.org) is sports editor of the Daily Journal.