It was a nerve-racking morning of baseball for the parents of the Collierville Dragons. The tension was easy to see on Michelle Locastro's face. "If we lose, then we're done," the mother of the Dragon's second baseman said. "So we have to win. We have to win to keep playing."
Across the field, Lisa Googe used her homemade rattle to cheer on the New Albany Bulldogs. The north Mississippi squad was in the same predicament as its Tennessee counterparts.
"Gotta have the defense," Googe yelled.
Between pitches, Googe talked about the week her 10 year olds spent in Gulfport "We've had a really good time," she said. "We've been to the beach and eaten a lot of good seafood and just really enjoyed it. Everybody's been really friendly down here."
Sixteen teams qualified for the USSSA 10 year old national championship. Ask business owners around the Sportsplex and they'll tell you this tournament and others just like it have made everybody winners, because weekend after weekend, baseball families keep filling their cash registers.
Neill Larson runs the Fairfield Inn on Highway 49. He said the weekly visit from youth baseball teams has been great. "They're going off to play tournaments. And when they come back, they're going into the pool for a quick dip," Larson said. "Then they're organizing in the lobby and they're having pizza parties at night. It's just a lot of fun."
Fun can be expensive. Just ask the head coach of the Pontotoc 10 year old team. "I've spent a lot of time at the ballpark," Michael Bailey said. "But for the kids, they've had a good time going to the movies and the beach and just lots of different things like that. Yes, it's pretty expensive. But it's worth it for the kids."
And the kids were what the tournament and the off field activities were all about. "It's been a lot of fun watching them play ball," Locastro said. And even more fun "watching them at the beach, having just an awesome time."
A late inning comeback by the Mississippi team ended her son's season. Collierville went back to Tennessee without a trophy, but with fond memories and plenty of souvenirs from the Gulfport tournament.
According to organizers, more than 60 teams from all over the southeast will be in Gulfport this weekend for the different baseball tournaments. The city estimates that each year, its Sportsplex has a total economic impact of $10 million.