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Perry, Oklahoma: Youth Baseball’s Home Base

27 Jan, 2021


What’s the very best way to design the very best youth baseball complex? Visit a host of venues. See how they play. See what players like – and what they don’t. Take note of what works well. Think about how to fix what doesn’t. Then bring home all the best ideas and put them into practice.

That, says Perry, Oklahoma’s Larry R. Pannell and Lee Harmon, is how the Perry BMAC Baseball Complex came into being.

Opened in 2015, the facility features four bermudagrass fields kept in pristine condition by a crew that goes to work after each game, providing a big league experience for youth players (the BMAC specializes in configuring its fields for 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U play). Each field is dragged, raked, watered and re-chalked between games before the next set of teams begins play. And that’s not the only aspect of the venue that receives attention.

“We have someone on duty full time to make sure the rest rooms are clean, trash is picked up and that there are no problems,” notes Pannell, Perry’s City Manager.

The facility’s size makes it perfect to host small to medium-sized tournaments – the type of event that has become popular with parents and athletes who have been waiting through quarantine and who are now allowed to participate in competitive events. And make no mistake, the reputation of the BMAC is growing.

“We’re seeing teams come in from Kansas, Texas and Arkansas, as well as from Oklahoma,” says Pannell. “We’re not just an Oklahoma facility. And once teams visit here, we hear them say they’ll be coming back.”

Part of the BMAC’s enduring dedication to the youth experience is the impact of its namesake. The BMAC is named for Brendon “BMAC” Michael McLarty, an avid baseball player and native son who died of an asthma attack at the age of 16. Local residents recall McLarty’s habit of stopping to watch Little League games and cheering on the children participating. (A June tournament, the Brendon McLarty Memorial Tournament, is offered in McLarty’s honor each year).

Lee Harmon, the full time manager of the BMAC, says the fields are so well kept (thanks to the donation of a professional mower from Toro), that players often mistake the surface for synthetic turf.

“It’s really great for the kids to play on – they just love it,” he notes. “We hear coaches telling players, “Don’t you mess up that grass!” It’s better than a lot of places kids play.”

The BMAC’s website notes that much consideration is given to athlete comfort and convenience. In hot weather, ice buckets and water coolers are located in each dugout.  Each field includes an LED-lit scoreboard and certified umpires are used at all city-hosted tournaments. Management can help outside event owners locate officials as well.  

The BMAC’s schedule for 2021 includes tournaments in March (the Spring Ring), April (Easter and A/AA events), May (Cinco de Mayo, Custom Rings and School’s Out Blowout Tournament), June (the McLarty tournament as well as the June Tune Up for A /AA teams and Regional Warm-Up), and July (Summer Heat and Beat the Heat). Expect others as well; the BMAC’s best marketing tool is word of mouth. A full list of tournaments, and contact information, is available on this page of the website.

“Teams talk,” says Harmon. “The big organizations that run 12-14 different tournaments a year, the pay-to-play events, they’ll come here and when they get back, they’ll tell other people, “You need to check out the BMAC” and the next thing you know, another organization is bringing in teams.”

Perry does not lack for hotel accommodations, either. Pannell and Harmon note that several nationally branded hotels are within walking distance of the BMAC (others are a short drive), making it easy for teams and parents to get to their accommodations. Many hotels also have pools, increasing their youth-friendly appeal. The Microtel Inn and Suites is the official hotel of the BMAC, according to the ballpark’s website. Perry also features a variety of restaurants, from well-known chains to independent establishments. The historic downtown area also has its share of diversions.

When play is done, Perry offers up plenty to do in its hometown environment. The Cherokee Strip Museum is located nearby and is ready to shed light not just on the indigenous tribes of the area but on life on the plains as a whole. One part of the museum, the Rose Hill School, immerses children in the experience of being part of a one-room schoolhouse. The Blacksmith Shop, meanwhile, showcases the craftsmanship of the tools and implements necessary to survive in an agricultural society.

For those who want the great outdoors, there are local parks and natural features including Perry Lake and CCC Lake and Park (with fishing, boating, picnicking and swimming).

Another sports-friendly aspect of Perry is the Perry Wrestling Monument Park, a tribute to the local high school wrestling program; with 43 team championships, Perry is listed in the record books of the National Federation of State High School Associations as having won more state wrestling titles than any other team in the nation.

“Perry is really big into wrestling,” adds Pannell, and the park is interesting.”

The park includes statues of wrestlers set across a wrestling wring from one another. Plaques commemorate titles won by the school’s teams, the Maroons, as well as the accomplishments of its individual athletes and coaches. Perry would like to make the monument and park a destination for wrestlers, with the ultimate goal of perpetuating interest, cooperation, assistance, and good sportsmanship between wrestlers and fans around the world.

“We have a lot to do here,” says Harmon, “and sometimes, we’ll even see teams pull out a barbecue grill and have a cookout near the fields. It’s a friendly place.”

For information on the BMAC, go to the venue’s website or contact Lee Harmon at 580-830-0554.

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