Long trips, declining budgets call for new plan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 29, 2010

A recent look at the playoff schedule for baseball and fastpitch softball revealed one startling fact.

Warren Central’s softball and baseball teams, both playing DeSoto Central from the Memphis metro area, would have passed each other like ships in the night.

The plan, now changed due to weather, had Warren Central’s baseball team headed north while the softball team came home for Game 2 of their playoff series on Saturday.

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Where is the logic in that? It’s just a cruel stepchild of the very odd playoff system for the best-of-three series employed by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at swilson@vicksburgpost.com or at 601-636-4545, ext. 142.

People could say that the bus trips are a waste of taxpayer dollars, but that’s not entirely true.

Phyfa Eiland of the MHSAA said the traveling teams in all of the playoff rounds except the championships receive a mileage check of $1 per mile out of the home team’s share of the gate receipts. That check is in addition to the 35 percent of the gate the visitors receive.

But there is still the cost of a bus driver and the wear and tear on buses when school systems are staring at the abyss of continuing state and local budget shortfalls as the recession reduces tax revenues.

There’s a quick solution that would cut out a lot of that travel.

Give the host school all three games in a series for both baseball and softball.

The format, as used by the Georgia High School Association, has a doubleheader on the first day, usually a Friday, and a Game 3, if needed, on Saturday.

No multiple long bus trips. To the victors go the spoils. The gate revenue split is 60 percent for the home team and 40 percent for visitors.

The criticisms are easy to make. Playing a doubleheader on the first day would be taxing on pitching. Baseball teams would be forced to throw their top two pitchers and go with whoever was left after the first two games.

Softball, in which teams usually throw just one or two pitchers, wouldn’t be as affected. But the pitching deficit would be a small problem when the lessened travel and greater emphasis on the division races is taken into account.

Finishing second now under the present system is just a minor hurdle, even if your team still has to square off against a higher-seeded team, because you’re guaranteed at least one game at home.

Finish second under Georgia’s plan and unless some higher-seeded teams are knocked out, your team could be hitting the road for a prolonged run to the state championship series.

And judging by the homefield advantage enjoyed by some of the state’s major baseball powers, it likely won’t be a prolonged run.

With more budget cuts and gas prices likely to shoot up in the future, this is a solution that makes incredible sense.

Even if it has to be copied from the Peach State.