GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Young baseball players from Ohio to the Carolinas marched through the streets of Gulfport in a parade to celebrate the start of two Nations Baseball Tournaments.
"We want to win this tournament for the citizens of Gulfport, and for Cincinnati citizens. That's really what we want to do," said Cincinnati Sluggers fan Brett Roth.
Around 1200 players and their family and fans will be competing in the tournaments over the next two weeks. Gulfport officials wanted them to feel right at home.
"The City of Gulfport has just opened their arms for us and not too many cities do things like we just experienced. We have the parade and the beads. They've said, 'We want you here,'" said Nations Baseball National President Ron Mathis.
"We think that if we can establish a good relationship, that this venue will grow for them. This is their first year. Next year, they're already talking this will be a feeder to an international competition, so that will draw more teams here," said Gulfport Councilman R. Lee Flowers.
When teams aren't playing, the players and their families will be spending time and money in Gulfport by staying at hotels, eating in restaurants and shopping.
"This place is fantastic. I love the beaches. It's a quality place for quality people," said Roth, who was eager to rent a jet ski at the beach.
"You take that number of kids that are from the 10 to 15 range to maybe nine to 17 ranges for the next tournament, that's a lot of kids. That's a lot of mommas and daddies, a lot of siblings that will be coming to town. And, that's tax revenue for us," said Flowers.
It's that economic boost that has officials ready to play ball for many years to come.
The tournaments will be played at the Gulfport Sportsplex and on fields in Long Beach. The first tournament starts Monday, with the second tourney swinging in on the 20th.