Softball tournament in Gulfport helps boost economy

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Dozens of girls' softball teams spent their weekend right here on the Gulf Coast. The Diamond 9 Coastal Classic welcomed teams from all over the country. Diamond 9 Events is a well known name in the world of softball. Kevin O'Donnell, President of Diamond 9, made a decision to bring their presence to the Gulf Coast for a special reason.

"We live in Avon, New Jersey, so a year ago we were directly hit and went through something similar to what the people down here went through," said O'Donnell.

"So we knew what it took to get back, so they say its Jersey strong, and we have some similar stories."

Having gone through Hurricane Sandy, O'Donnell and his family are all too familiar with devastation. They were able to empathize with those here on the Gulf Coast who went through Hurricane Katrina.

"We thought it was a really good story, hurricane survivors like us coming to the coast. We also look for great destinations. This seemed to be a great destination, great fields, teams like to come here. We've had a really good experience."

O'Donnell says Diamond 9 is always looking for new places to host tournaments, and he gave WLOX an idea of just how big those tournaments can be.

"We go to ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. That's one of our bigger events, 200 teams. We get about 278 college coaches."

With these teams having some of the most talented girls fast pitch players in the country, a Diamond 9 tournament right here in Mississippi makes local coaches like Troy Best very happy.

"Having teams of this caliber come down to Mississippi is fantastic. You have teams all the way from California, Central Florida, and New Jersey. It really helps us expand our recruiting aspects, seeing teams from around there," said Best.

Despite the humidity and inconsistent temperatures, O'Donnell says there is no doubt Diamond 9 will be returning to Mississippi next year. The tournament welcomed 32 teams and about 2,000 people. He says they already have teams registered for next year.

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