SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (AP) — Southaven officials have been gearing up since winter for this summer's Dizzy Dean World Series.
"We've been meeting, discussing the logistics, since January and February because of the numbers that are coming in," said Southaven director of tournament operations Scotty Baker. "It takes a lot of people's cooperation."
That collective spirit better be present, as 47 youth softball teams kicked off play Thursday at Greenbrook Softball Complex and 74 baseball teams start at Snowden Grove Park Saturday.
And for the latter, it's just one of three championship sessions. The action overlaps, since ages 6, 9, 11, 14 and 16 play through July 19, age 8 (July 18-24) and ages 7, 10, 12, 13 and 18 (July 20-26).
"This time around, it's going to be bigger and better," Southaven athletic director Gary Roberts said. "We'll get finished just in time for the kids to go back to school around here. This kind of caps the whole summer. This is the grand finale."
The city has always hosted the softball (ages 6-16), but a three-year contract was signed last November for every baseball age division. Depending on how things go, there's an option through 2019.
"We're very excited that we were able to attract all the age groups," Southaven Mayor Greg Davis said. "It'll have, in my opinion, a tremendous economic impact to our local businesses. Overall, it's exactly what we had hoped to do when we built the fields."
Converging on DeSoto County are teams from North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Texas, to name a few.
"We'll fill up every hotel here and keep all the businesses just very happy," Baker said. "It will be a big crowd. This is their time to come travel and play, where the select teams have been traveling all year long. They're excited to be here and you can see the excitement."
An opening ceremony at the Snowden Grove Amphitheater includes food, a parade of teams, speakers and fireworks.
"We do the best we can to make sure these kids have a good experience," Roberts said. "Some of them will be coming back and playing All-Stars at a higher age; some of them won't, so this is something that they can carry with them — something they'll never forget."
In celebration of Dizzy Dean's 35th anniversary as an organization, Internet and television coverage is available. Selected semifinals and title games will be streamed at dizzydeanbbinc.org. CSS, a member of the Comcast Sports Group, is set to show the 12-year-old championship on a tape-delayed basis.
"There's no gate admission (on that day)," Baker said. "We highly encourage people to come out."
The series is named for Dean, a Hall of Fame pitcher who did radio broadcasts in St. Louis and for the New York Yankees before moving to Game of the Week network telecasts in the 1950s and 1960s. He died in 1974 and is buried in the tiny community of Bond about five miles north of Wiggins, Miss.
Dean played for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs from 1932 to 1941. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953.
For complete tournament brackets, visit http://snowdengrovebaseball.com and http://greenbrooksoftball.com.