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Are you ready for some … baseball?

Greg Williams of the Vicksburg Parks and Recreation Department chalks the batters box around the American Field home plate at Halls Ferry Park this morning as workers put on the finishing touches for the opening game of the Governor’s Cup tonight. (Brian LodenThe Vicksburg Post)

[7/23/04]According to the calendar, there are still two months of summer left. According to the baseball schedule, the end is already here.

The Governor’s Cup, traditionally one of the last major tournaments of the summer baseball season, begins tonight at 6 at Halls Ferry Park. Admission is $3 per person, per day, for adults, and $1 for children ages 7-10. Children ages 6 and under will be admitted free.

A total of 28 teams from Mississippi and Louisiana will compete this weekend in four age groups 7-8, 9-10, 11, and 14-year-olds’. Six more age groups and nearly 30 teams will descend upon Vicksburg next Friday for the tournament’s second weekend.

This year’s Governor’s Cup is being held a week earlier than usual, thanks to an early start to the school year, but it hasn’t significantly decreased the number of teams involved, organizers said.

“To get to 45 teams now, and maybe get 10 more, that’s pretty good,” Governor’s Cup co-director William “Boozer” Emerson said.

The tournament has nearly doubled in size since it came to Vicksburg in 1995 following three unsuccessful years in Madison. That year, there were 31 teams in three age groups. By 2001, the first time the tournament was split into two weekends, there were 62 teams in nine age groups.

“It’s really grown in the past few years,” said tournament co-director Stan Woodson, a former president of the Vicksburg Baseball Association who has been a part of nearly every Governor’s Cup played in Vicksburg. “When we first came over here, we barely had any teams in a few age groups.

“We even had a few 18-year-old teams and high school teams.”

The older age groups have fallen off in recent years. More high school teams are playing deep into the summer, taking players 14 and older from tournament teams that may otherwise come to the Governor’s Cup.

The 14-year-olds’ bracket this weekend includes only four teams, and a 15-16-year-olds’ division planned for next week may be scuttled if more teams can’t be found.

Still, the younger brackets are going strong and form the core of the tournament. There are nine teams in the 7-8-year-olds’ age group and 10 teams in the 9-10-year-olds’ division this weekend. Registrations are still coming in for next week’s groups, but the 11-12-year-olds’ division typically draws 12 to 16 teams.

“We’re doing OK with the number of teams we have coming in,” Woodson said. “It would be nice to have more playing area, maybe one more lighted field, but we’re about to capacity.”

This year’s Governor’s Cup will have plenty of familiar faces five teams from Warren County will compete this weekend, and a number of teams are returning for another go-round as well as some new ones who have never played here.

Tournament organizers say that shows how good a reputation the Governor’s Cup has built around the state.

“It has really grown through word of mouth,” said Suzi Brocato, co-director for this weekend’s 9-10-year-olds’ and next weekend’s 9-year-olds’ tournaments. “It makes us feel good when we hear, So and so told us about it,’ and then when you hear some team came back because the experience was so good.”