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TAMPA - After an eight-year run at the University of Tampa, the Tony Saladino Baseball Tournament announced Wednesday it is moving its home base to Brandon High, where the tournament began 27 years ago.
The reason for the switch, Tony Saladino said, came after UT balked at having the Saladino's hospitality tent and two trailers set up behind the field, where they have been every year at UT.
The difference this time, Saladino said, is UT's baseball facility has completed its renovation, which made space behind the bleachers tight.
UT officials could not be reached for comment.
"The bottom line is that we can't run this tournament without our trailers and hospitality setup," Saladino said. "The hospitality and what goes on off the field is just as much a part of this tournament as anything.
"So, we're going back to our roots and everything. We'll be just fine."
Since the tournament began at Brandon in 1981, it has grown from 11 teams to 28, which requires four more "satellite sites" to complete pool play.
This year, games begin March 17 at Brandon, Riverview, Newsome, Middleton and Chamberlain. Sunday will be an off day, and play will resume Monday through Friday, when the championship will be held. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final all will be played at Brandon.
Many players will be disappointed with the move, Hillsborough shortstop Marco LaMonte said, because playing on the UT field "made it more exciting."
"The field is a college field and is in great condition and in a perfect place," said LaMonte, who helped Hillsborough take the Saladino title at UT last year.
"The excitement for last year's championship was awesome. The crowd was huge and, quite frankly, I don't know if having it at Brandon will generate that type of crowd and excitement."
The home-base sites for the tournament through the years have been Brandon (four years), King High (14 years) and UT (eight).
The seedings for this season's tournament will be determined Sunday in a meeting with all participating coaches.