Make Lexington the promised land of Dixie Youth Baseball

08/11/2014 9:06 PM

08/11/2014 9:35 PM

Lexington should be the Mecca for Dixie Youth Baseball teams and players across 11 states in the Southeast. The town, which is hosting the event this week, should become the permanent home of the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series.

Just as Omaha, Neb., is the promised land of college baseball and Williamsport, Pa., is the ultimate destination of Little League Baseball, Lexington should be the holy grail of Dixie Youth Baseball.

“Lexington could accommodate that,” said James Thompson, president of Lexington Dixie Youth Baseball, “and we would embrace that.”

Lexington also will host the 2015 tournament, and plans to bid again for the 2017 event. For now, at least, the national Dixie Youth Baseball board of commissioners awards World Series sites on a year-to-year basis.

That could change, particularly since Lexington was the only site that bid for the 2014 and 2015 World Series, and because Lexington has made its intentions known of some day being the event's permanent home.

“There's been some discussion (about Lexington as a permanent site),” said Kent Bruxvoort, national president of Dixie Youth Baseball. “To this point, we really prefer to go to different places, different states and get more people involved. Time will tell.

“There are fewer and fewer people who want to do the amount of work it takes to put on a tournament. You never know. Right now, we're on a year-to-year basis, but (Lexington) can come and bid every year.”

Prior to 2013, Dixie Youth Baseball awarded host sites to each of the three levels of play – AAA (9-10-year-olds), Majors (11-12-year-olds) and Ozone (advanced 11-12-year-olds). A year ago, all three championships were played in Laurel, Miss. This year, and next, Lexington will host all three levels.

That means 36 teams and their coaches, parents and family have descended on the Town of Lexington and pumped an estimated $2.2 million to $2.5 million into the economy by occupying 3,000 rooms in hotels and dining at area restaurants over the seven-day tournament that concludes Thursday.

Randy Halfacre, president and CEO of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, says the event has had the greatest impact of any of the many recreational sporting events staged in Lexington County.

“The Bassmasters fishing tournament up on Lake Murray might try to claim that, but I don't think they could claim between $2.2 (million) and $2.5 million economic impact over the course of a week,” Halfacre said.

Although few economic studies have been done for recreational sporting events in the area, one study estimated that the 2005 boys and girls Southern Sectional Tennis Tournament in Lexington had a $500,000 impact. Lake Murray hosted Bassmasters Elite fishing tournaments in 2008 and 2011, and the same event in Dayton, Tenn., this year had an estimated $2.5 million economic impact.

Because of its impact on the community, Thompson and Halfacre said support in the form of sponsorships and volunteers has been beyond what they could have expected. There were 13 major sponsors with donations between $1,000 and $10,000 for the event that had a $125,000 budget, according to Thompson. More than 200 volunteers made the tournament run virtually without a hitch.

By continuing to host the World Series, Lexington officials believe they have made a stronger case to become the permanent site, and national officials recognize that.

“You can get your facilities set and avoid some of the things people deal with that first year,” Bruxvoort said. “Yesterday, we had trouble with Internet bandwidth. They got it fixed today. Once you've done it, it's set. . . . You build that tradition.”

Helping Lexington's cause was the recent announcement that Lexington will build a $3 million, 3,000-seat baseball stadium to be the summer home of the Columbia Blowfish of the collegiate Coastal Plain League. The stadium will be located on the site of Wildcat Hollow, the former home of Lexington High School football.

That site is across Ball Park Road in Lexington from the Dixie Youth Baseball complex, which underwent an extensive renovation eight years ago and now is considered among the finest youth baseball facilities in the Southeast.

A year from now, instead of renting USC’s Carolina Stadium in Columbia, the Dixie Youth World Series opening ceremonies can be held at Lexington County Stadium. So, too, can each of the three championship games.

By then, Dixie Youth Baseball officials, will recognize Lexington as the annual home of its premier event. Players and coaches around the Southeast will then pen LEXINGTON on the inside brim of their caps and know from year to year where they can realize their dreams of winning a World Series.

About Ron Morris

Ron Morris

Ron Morris

Morris has been employed at The State newspaper for 15 years, the last 11 as sports columnist. He is an Oklahoma native who was reared in Wyoming and graduated from UNC Charlotte. He previously worked for the Durham (N.C.) Morning Herald and the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat.Along the way, Morris has written a book, "An Illustrated History of ACC Basketball" and won numerous national and state awards for sports column writing, enterprise reporting and feature stories. He is a five-time sportswriter of the year winner in South Carolina by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Morris has run a marathon, hitch-hiked across the country and appeared in Sports Illustrated for counting the number of times the ball bounced in a men's basketball game between Catawba College and Appalachian State. Email Ron at rmorris@thestate.com or call him at (803) 771-8432.

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