Playing the Field
30 May, 2018By: Peter Francesconi
Baseball Facilities Coast to Coast Provide Great Home Bases
For one of this country’s oldest organized sports, baseball remains one of the most popular and it continues to grow.
Much of this growth is fueled by Generation Z, kids ages six to 17 who, according to research by Sports Marketing Surveys USA, not only tend to be more active overall, but who also focus on team sports and outdoor activities – including baseball. While participation for most team sports and activities has declined, baseball participation has been growing from year to year.
It’s hard to find a community around the country that doesn’t offer diamonds for baseball events. Here are some of the best.
The largest venue for baseball tournaments and events in Alpharetta is Wills Park, which has eight diamonds with lights (and two tee-ball fields). The city also has four baseball fields at Webb Bridge Park, along with fields at local high schools that are pressed into service when needed for larger tournaments.
“We work closely with our four high schools and the Alpharetta Recreation, Parks & Cultural Services Department so they make the fields available when we bring in tournaments,” says Janet Rodgers, president and CEO of the Alpharetta CVB.
The Alpharetta Youth Baseball Association manages the recreational fields, and the city’s Recreation & Parks Department maintains them, Rodgers says. “The association likes to work with us on attracting tournaments to our city, because some of their local teams usually get to play in a tournament and the association sometimes receives funds from concessions at the fields.”
Alpharetta has hosted sports groups including the Braves Youth Baseball Classic, with 80 teams, and Perfect Games with different divisions playing all around the metro Atlanta area, including 60 teams in Alpharetta. “We have a dedicated sports sales manager on our CVB staff,” Rodgers says. “We offer organizers excellent sports facilities, including a new batting pavilion at Wills Park, ample parking, multiple playgrounds, walking trails, swimming pools, picnic pavilions, a safe destination for teams, and close proximity to Atlanta. Our hotel rates are very competitive, and there are plenty of options for activities for teams and their families.”
Big Spring, Texas
In Big Spring, “We have baseball fields everywhere,” says Big Spring facilities coordinator Terri Telchik. “But the main facility is the Roy Anderson Sports Complex, with two sets of lighted, natural-grass diamonds”—one four-field cloverleaf dedicated to baseball and a second four-diamond grouping for softball.
For larger baseball tournaments, the softball fields are relined and pressed into service. There are also practice fields at the complex, too. “We have an amazing group out there taking care of the facility,” Telchik says. Each field has fenced-in dugout areas, and there are restrooms, playgrounds and concession stands.
Big Spring is home to Howard College and its premier baseball diamond, and both high schools in Big Spring offer fields, too. Telchik says teams from neighboring towns also play at the diamonds in Big Spring.
Through the Big Spring Convention Bureau, tournaments coming into the area can apply for an event funding grant, says Haley Herrera, “We can help get them set up with hotels, can do advertising in the community for them and can offer coupons to local restaurants and businesses if they want.”
The city of Cleveland, Mississippi, with 13,000 residents, is two hours south of Memphis and two hours north of Jackson. “For a town this size, we’re very fortunate to have what we have here, and fortunate for the support the city gives to parks and recreation,” says Park Commissioner Stephen Glorioso.
Baseball and softball are extremely popular in the city; Glorioso says annually there are 72 local teams on the city’s 16 diamonds. The premier complex is at the 78-acre Bear Pen Park, which offers nine ball fields, including a complex of four diamonds with central press box and concessions area, restrooms and covered dugouts. The fences are 225 feet, but play can be flexible from youngsters playing tee-ball up to high school ball. Other ball fields in the park offer distances of 180 feet, 275 feet, 280 feet and 320 feet.
Cleveland, admits Glorioso, is “a bit off the beaten path, but this town is a jewel. People have no idea what we have here.” Among the attractions is the Grammy Museum Mississippi, a $30 million project (funded by city, state and many private donations) that is the only Grammy museum built outside of Los Angeles.
One of the main venues for youth sports in Gainesville is Champions Park, which has 16 youth baseball and fast-pitch softball fields, all with lights, artificial turf infields with Bermuda grass outfields and 220-foot permanent fencing.
“We’ve hosted tournaments with more than 120 teams at this location, including Super Regionals,” says Joleen Cacciatore, the executive director of the Gainesville Sports Commission. “We have USSSA baseball events coming in for the summer and also some softball events, one with 100 teams.”
The 16 fields at Champions Park are arranged in four pods, so organizers can customize and use only the number of pods they need. Each pod has full bathrooms and concessions. In the event of a passing rain shower, the turf infields allow play to resume quickly.
“We really love the permanent fencing,” Cacciatore says. “It’s great to see that with youth baseball — it’s custom for them and makes it exciting when players are able to hit home runs. It’s a lot of fun to see events here.”
Gainesville also offers the Diamond Sports Park, with four lighted baseball/softball fields with skinned infields, along with two youth baseball fields with grass infields and 240-foot center field fences. The Easton-Newberry Sports Complex has four lighted, skinned infield diamonds, including two youth fields with 220-foot fences and two regulation fields with 340-foot center field fences. There are also four lighted diamonds at Jonesville Baseball Park, two with 340-foot center field fences and grass infields and two with 220-foot fencing with clay infields.
The Gainesville Sports Commission will help support events with whatever the owner is looking for,” Cacciatore says. “We’re never short of volunteers.”
Greene County, Tennessee
“We’re a huge baseball community,” says Tammy Kinser, director of tourism for Greene County Tourism, in Greeneville, Tennessee. “There is huge support in this area for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, and we’re fortunate to have their Minor League Greeneville Reds playing here at Pioneer Park on the campus of Tusculum College.” The field at Pioneer Park seats 2,400 fans, and the venue has a baseball museum that highlights players who went on to play in the major leagues. In May, Pioneer Park will again host the NJCAA Division III Baseball World Series.
The area also has the Greeneville-Greene County Sports Complex, which offers three ball fields, a pavilion with restrooms, concession stand and covered area with picnic tables. There are also fields available at Hardin Park and a multitude of other ball fields in the area, says Kinser, including high school fields that are used for large events. The Greeneville Parks & Recreation department, with its full-time maintenance staff of nine employees, keeps the fields in top form.
Greene County, nestled in the Appalachian foothills of East Tennessee and surrounded by natural scenic beauty, has a rich historical heritage, including being the home to Andrew Johnson, the 17th U.S. president, and frontiersman Davy Crockett, who died defending the Alamo. Many attractions and historical tours and sites make it a fascinating area for families to visit.
Ocala/Marion County, Florida
The 80-acre Rotary Sportsplex has 11 lighted fields for playing organized baseball and annually hosts district, state and regional baseball tournaments. It also hosted the 14U Babe Ruth World Series in 2014 and the Cal Ripken World Series in 2010, 2013 and 2016. The park has three concession stands, 13 batting cages, one multi-use field and one playground.
“These events are a wonderful opportunity to introduce our community to thousands of visitors from around the country who might be experiencing Marion County for the first time,” says Kathy Bryant, chairman of the Marion County Commission.
In 2018, Rotary Sportsplex underwent renovations to update with all ADA regulations, which included expansions to bleacher seating with shaded covers for four tournament fields. Other improvements were made to the bullpens and aesthetics throughout the park, and an additional batting cage facility was built to accommodate older players 13 and up. The park is owned and operated by the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department, which maintains all the buildings and grounds and provides excellent service during tournaments and events, including dragging and re-chalking the clay between each game during a tournament.
The area also has other venues including the Ocala Regional Sportsplex, Belleview Sportsplex, Wrigley Fields and Shocker Park. The Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau provides a booking incentive program for organizations looking to bring events into the area.
Odessa has four complexes designed for baseball events. “All of our complexes are lighted and have natural grass,” says Melissa Aguirre, the sports and convention sales specialist with the Odessa CVB. “They’re also all located in our parks system and have restrooms and concessions available. And there are playgrounds, too, making them convenient for families.”
Floyd Gwin Park has four diamonds available for youth and adult tournaments, McKinney Park and Sherwood Park both have three fields available for youth and adults, and Jim Parker Park offers two diamonds for youth players. The area also has the 90-acre UTPB (University of Texas–Permian Basin) Park, which has 14 baseball/softball fields available, along with six picnic pavilions, and a playground/sprayground.
“All our parks are convenient to our restaurants and other businesses, and they’re all pretty close to each other,” Aguirre adds. Odessa also has more than 3,800 hotel rooms. The CVB offers an incentive program for events coming into the area. and there’s a sports committee and other volunteers to help out at tournaments.
Baseball is big in Owensboro. The city offers two large baseball/softball complexes and overall there are 17 diamonds operated by the Parks & Rec Department. In the past seven years, Owensboro has hosted 29 national championships in baseball and softball, in addition to hosting numerous state and local tournaments.
Among the facilities are the six diamonds at Panther Creek Park, all lighted and with scoreboards. There also are on-site batting cages and two concession stands available. For families traveling with kids, the park has a six-acre lake, spray park, picnic shelters, butterfly garden and nature trails.
The Owensboro Softball Complex is at Jack C. Fisher Park, and it has four lighted diamonds in a cloverleaf, with a centrally located air-conditioned field house that has concessions, offices, score-keeping rooms, media center, restrooms and free public Wi-Fi. While top softball events (national, state and local tourneys) take place there, the complex can easily be set up for baseball, with multiple mound, base and fence distances. The venue has been home to BPA Youth Baseball State and World Series tournaments, among other events.
The 152-acre Yellow Creek Park also has three diamonds, ranging from a 200-foot youth softball field to a 350-foot baseball field. Yellow Creek has been acclaimed for hosting state and national baseball tournaments. The park also offers picnic shelters, fishing, nature trails, disc golf course, a spray park and a playground.
“There’s a storied history of baseball in Owensboro, from our youth teams that have gone on to the Little League World Series to players in the major leagues,” says Jared Bratcher, the sports director for Visit Owensboro. “This certainly is a baseball town, and we take pride in our events.” SDM