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Softball returns to Gulfport
By ROVEN YAU
Published March 25, 2005
GULFPORT - Little League softball will get a major boost this summer when the Southern Region Tournament returns to Gulfport for the first time in more than 20 years.
Plans for moving the tournament to Gulfport permanently began four years ago when a South Carolina representative suggested it during an advisory committee meeting. "Everyone has been saying that we should give girls the same treatment as the boys, but the timing just never worked out," Southern Region assistant director Jennifer Colvin said. "This year it looks like it's going too."
Gulfport has been the home to the major boys (11- to 12-year-olds) tournament formore than 30 years. Before the 2000 season, the Southern Region included 13 states, meaning the tournament often took two weeks to complete. Realignment of the region states in 2001 helped shrink the tournament field to eight and paved the way for softball's return.
"When you go from 13 teams to eight teams it's a piece of cake," Colvin said. "It's very doable. The volunteers were eager and that was a big factor as well."
The state champions from North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Florida will begin arriving in Gulfport on July 28, a week before the boys' tournament is scheduled to start. The girls will stay at the South Region headquarters complex at 658 58th St. and play games at Arnold S. White Stadium. The winner will advance to the softball World Series in Portland, Oregon.
"We want the young ladies in the program to experience the same type of stadium play and hospitality that the boys do," said Little League baseball international board member and District 12 administrator Bob Gibson.
The Southern Region will fund the tournament while local Little League districts will supply volunteer helpers. As both the softball and baseball tournaments will run back to back, there likely will be an overlap in personnel and facilities.
Arnold S. White Stadium will undergo a transformation to accommodate the softball tournament. The six-inch pitching mound used during the baseball tournament will be removed then reconstructed after the softball tournament. The pitching rubber also will be moved in 6 feet.