Babe Ruth official says Vicksburg struck out|[07/24/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Malfunctioning public address equipment, concession stand failures and a perceived lack of interest from Vicksburg officials has one Babe Ruth Baseball commissioner saying the city struck out in its first foray into hosting a regional youth baseball tournament.

&#8220I’ve seen things here I’ve not seen in over 20 years of doing this,” said Southwest Regional commissioner Robert Freeman of Crossett, Ark., while overseeing the 16-year-olds’ Babe Ruth Southwest Regional at Bazinsky Field. &#8220The biggest thing has been the public address system. They haven’t had one. They were able to do one game on Friday and then our opening ceremonies, and that’s it. We’ve had no national anthem, no invocation, and no public address for any game since Friday night.

&#8220I’m a little shocked at the lack of support from the city. There was no one here from the city, not the mayor or any of the aldermen.

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&#8220We generally like to have the mayor here in order for Babe Ruth Baseball to present a plaque to the city for hosting the tournament. Every other tournament we have throughout the country, at least someone from the mayor’s office shows and most come to throw out the first pitch.”

Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens said Monday morning at City Hall no one from Babe Ruth Baseball or the Vicksburg Baseball Association contacted his office about being present at the opening ceremonies.

&#8220They never contacted us,” Leyens said Monday morning. &#8220I’ve done tournaments in the past, like throwing out the first pitch.”

Vicksburg restaurant owner Rowdy Nosser, who hosted several Texas players at his house and provided food for other out-of-state teams, disagreed with Leyens’ statement saying, &#8220That’s not true, the mayor has known about this tournament being here since December. And it’s been in the paper all week.

&#8220If we’re not here trying to do things for our community’s children, what are we here for?” Nosser added.

When informed about Freeman’s misgivings, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said he was disappointed.

&#8220I feel bad for the city. I wish someone had contacted me. I felt I needed to come out and see Mr. Freeman and express our apology,” said Mayfield, who attended Monday afternoon’s game between Vicksburg and Tri-County, Texas. He was back to see the last couple of innings of the Monday night game between Mid-County, Texas out of the Beaumont area, and Tri-County.

Leyens appeared to place the blame for the miscommunication on the Vicksburg Baseball Association.

&#8220Who with the VBA is running this?” Leyens asked.

Vicksburg Baseball Association President Marshall Upton landed the tournament months ago.

&#8220Well, there you go,” Leyens answered.

&#8220I can’t believe the mayor responded in that manner,” Mayfield said Monday night. &#8220He knew about this (tournament) Monday morning, and still didn’t show.”

Freeman said Upton is not to blame.

&#8220Marshall has done a fine job. He just needed more help, specifically, he needed more help from the City of Vicksburg,” Freeman said.

Upton said the city has shown little interest in the three previous Cal Ripken state tournaments that have been hosted at Halls Ferry Park, even though they bring in hotel and restaurant revenue to the city.

&#8220We brought in two state tournaments last year and where was the city at? We had one this year, and again no one from the mayor’s office came out,” Upton said. &#8220How many times do you have to call them? Things like this make it hard for anyone to volunteer to do anything good for these kids. It’s hard to make people care.”

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said the city did go into an executive meeting Thursday morning in order to &#8220comp” the VBA use of the City Auditorium for Thursday night’s banquet.

&#8220They said they were short on funds even though we have a contract with them. They waited until Wednesday afternoon to tell us they needed help,” Beauman said.

Beauman also said that he had the city crew check the sound system at Bazinsky Field before the tournament and said it was fine. But it did not work Friday night and there was no anthem or public address announcements, or players’ introductions for four games Saturday and four more on Sunday.

The PA system was working for the two games Monday after the city’s crews worked on them.

There have been other problems as well. The concession stand on Saturday, the hottest of the four days of the tournament, ran out of ice.

On Sunday, Freeman could not enter the pressbox to get the 11 a.m. game between West Arkansas and Miss-Lou started because no one was there to unlock it. The game went on as scheduled without an official scorebook.

&#8220I’ll keep up with it, on this little sheet of paper,” Freeman said.