LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Long Beach is stepping up to the plate to convince hundreds of little league baseball fans the Coast is a great place for spending time both on and off the field. The Long Beach Sportsplex is the site for simultaneous Cal Ripken Regional tournaments, one for seven-year-olds and another for 11-year-olds.
The games got underway Friday morning. Before now, the Long Beach Youth Baseball League had never hosted a Cal Ripken Regional tournament. Organizers say running two regional tournaments has been quite a challenge, but one they believe will pay off big in the future.
There are 28 teams, but only love for America's Favorite pass time.
Seven-year-old Brock Billingsley of Arkansas said, "I like to play catcher and I like to run and I like to hit the ball."
"I think it's kind of a big deal. Most people don't get the chance to come to these regional tournaments," said Tristan White, an 11-year-old from Gulfport. "I'm actually pretty excited about it."
The excitement is that Long Beach is taking a swing at impressing 1,000 players, coaches and fans. Some of them come from places like Louisiana and Arkansas.
Tournament Director for the 11-year-olds Pete McGoey said, "Historically, Arkansas is a big draw for the Cal Ripken age group for the tournaments. We want Mississippi to be put on the map and we want people to understand that the coast is a great place to come. For example, this morning eating breakfast I had them look out the window of the facility with the beach and the water and said, 'You don't get this view very often where you live so enjoy it while you can.'"
Baseball fans said during breaks in the action they're exploring the area and therefore making the trip into the Coast a family vacation.
"We've stayed at the Beau Rivage and then went fishing yesterday," said Michelle Evans of Louisiana. "We got to look around a little bit. Enjoy the beaches."
Brett Broadway of Arkansas said, "First go to the beach. Our grandkids, we're down here and they're never been to the beach. We're excited about that. Get to watch the grandkids play ball and vacation, so it's a lot of fun."
"A significant challenge exists when you do this just with one age group, but it's double the challenge when you have two," said McGoey. "We have a combination of seven and 11-year-olds for a combination of 28 teams and trying to accommodate that many people can be challenging at times, but they seem to be doing a great job with that. "
"I'm sure it was a chore," said Coach Jeremy Stovall of Bryant, AK. "But they've done really well. They've done a really good job of getting everything put together and making sure everybody is taken care of."
Long Beach organizers said they gave out goody bags with coupons and tourism information to encourage people to venture out. There is also a Cal Ripken Regional Tournament for 8-year-olds is underway in Bay St. Louis.