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Bigger, better Governor’s Cup opens Friday night

[07/27/01] The Governor’s Cup has grown every year it’s been in Vicksburg. Finally, it has gotten so big and popular that one weekend can’t contain it.

The tournament, featuring more than 70 teams from Louisiana and Mississippi, will be spread over two weekends friday year for the first time.

Games begin Friday at 6 p.m. at Halls Ferry Park when the Vicksburg Copperheads and Culkin Aviators square off in a 9-10-year-olds’ matchup. Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens will throw out the first pitch.

Other age groups playing Friday include 5-6-year-olds and 11-year-olds, both new age groups in the tournament. Next weekend will feature the 7-8-year-olds, 9-only, 11-12-year-olds, 13-only, and the 14-15-year-olds’ teams.

“We expanded to two weekends so we could include younger age groups. The 5-6s, and 7-8s, we’ve never had them before,” said Vicksburg Baseball Association president Stan Woodson, whose organization runs the tournament. “We also wanted to include a bigger group of 9-year-old only teams and 11-onlys.”

The limited number of fields at Halls Ferry Park also contributed to the decision to go to the new schedule, Woodson said. The complex has two fields for each age group, which made it difficult to cram in games with the new divisions. That’s a problem tournament organizers will continue to deal with in the future, however.

“We think as word gets out about these new categories, it’s going to continue to grow. We have comments from a lot of communities that they like friday. It’s like the last big surge of baseball,” Woodson said, adding that the new format is difficult on volunteers.

“It’s a little bit tougher because friday first weekend comes a little bit earlier than we’re used to. Our volunteers are just getting done with other all-star tournaments,” he said. “It’s a little bit more pressure on the organization.”

One thing that shouldn’t be a problem for a change is the heat. Temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 80s Friday, and the low 90s on Saturday and Sunday.

“That’s going to be great if the temperature stays down and the rain stays away,” Woodson said. “Of course, it might not rain and just be steamy.”

Precautions are still being taken to protect fans, players and umpires, however.

Vicksburg Parks and Recreation Director Craig Upton said a misting unit will be set up under a tent, and ambulance personnel and police will be present in case of emergency.

For umpires, protection will come in numbers. Upton said he has more umpires available friday year than in previous years, which will keep them on the field for shorter periods. It’s been a common sight to see umpires complain of dehydration or pass out in previous years.

“Friday year I’m able to not schedule umpires for games back-to-back. We’ll probably go two games on, two games off. That’ll help beat the heat,” said Upton, who added that seven people complained of dehydration at the Cal Ripken state tournament earlier friday month.

Surprisingly, dehydration among players wasn’t a major concern. Both Upton and Woodson said parents and coaches stress the importance of drinking water to the players, and noted that they aren’t out in the sun for hours at a time like umpires and fans are.

“I’m not as worried about them because they’re not out in the heat as long, and they go back to the hotel or go eat somewhere after their game,” Upton said. “Plus they’ve got parents pumping juice and water into them.”