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Dixie tourney includes softball ... and more

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- From its origins in Florida in the late 1970s, never before have the state championships for all six Dixie Girls Softball League divisions been held in one place.

But then again, never before in the state has a board of directors like at East Pasco been as determined to bring the event to Pasco County and do so much for players and parents alike.

More than 500 players and thousands of family and friends are expected to descend upon Zephyrhills today for the start of the Dixie Girls Softball State Tournament, which runs through Monday at the Jordan Softball Complex on Airport Road.

And because Zephyrhills is the host city this year, an East Pasco team gets an automatic berth in each division.

Admission is $3 a day, or $10 for all five days. Children under 12 will be admitted free.

Organizing the busy itinerary of the five-day fast-pitch tournament has been exhausting to say the least.

"Whew, tell me," said Louise Jordan, a longtime league booster, board member and treasurer who along with husband Clarence has been with the league for 23 years.

"The board of directors decided, "Hey, let's go for it.' And they bid for it."

Specifically, it was board member Gary Clark who made the initial suggestion. Then he and the other board members put together an impressive bid for all six divisions.

The organizers even rented the nearby Zephyrhills Senior Center so the girls will have a cool place to stay in between games instead of underneath the hot sun -- or in the rain, as organizers fear could happen this weekend.

All of these details and more explain why Zephyrhills won the bid for all of the divisions. Of course, the city has hosted many state division championships and World Series in the past, most recently in 1995.

"My husband wanted to make it that way," said Laura Clark, another board member, of husband Gary. "Because he wanted the families and everyone else to come and not just the children. That was his big motivation, to add all these extra."

This is how the tournament will unfold:

The opening ceremonies are at 1 p.m. today, with the introduction of local and Dixie League officials and all of the players at the Jordan Softball Complex. A pizza party will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. with live rock music provided by the Zephyrhills band Five Mile Radius.

Friday starts for the adults with a golf scramble at Scotland Yards in Dade City. There will be a 9 a.m. shotgun start, and the fee is $30 per person, which includes lunch. The girls will get a private tour of the Zephyrhills Spring Water bottling plant and then get a private morning showing of two movies at the Zephyrhills Cinema 6: Me, Myself and Irene for the older girls and Big Momma's House for the younger ones.

Saturday beings with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Zephyrhills Senior Center. Then at 9 a.m., there will be a car show at the park along with a crafts show, pony rides, a petting zoo, a dunk tank and a raffle for two cruise ship tickets to the Bahamas.

Sunday is the lightest of the days, beginning with a gospel hour from noon to 1 p.m. led by Andrea Counsell.

"We're just praying it doesn't rain," Louise Jordan said. "We've been praying for rain for six months, and now we're going to pray it doesn't rain."

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