In a few years, I will be sitting in the bleachers watching my own son play recreational baseball. All I can think about is the heat, sweat, and sunburn. I’m not exactly an outdoor sport kind of girl. However, if it means watching my boy play America’s game, I will be front and center – coated in sunscreen and hiding under an enormous sunhat.
My husband gets just giddy thinking about Dean’s future in little league, as Keith played when he was a child, and that experience left him with a lifelong love of baseball. He and Dean, who just turned one, are already playing a version of catch with a mini basketball.
In Mississippi, little league baseball and softball rule supreme, and ball parks across Mississippi are hopping most weekends during the spring and summer months.
I can’t say enough about the parents of the children playing. Families commit to a pretty strenuous practice schedule as well as traveling to area communities to compete in tournament play. In addition, the level of support of youth recreation sports in Carroll and Montgomery Counties from elected officials and the business community is why our local youth programs are so successful.
Annual participation in the program continues to increase, and the love of the baseball and softball are nurtured in young players. That is evident by the success enjoyed by the baseball and softball programs at area high schools.
With the Dizzy Dean World Series for both baseball and softball being held at Southaven’s Snowden Grove Park and Greenbrook Park, respectively, and state tournaments held around the state in towns like Winona and Eupora, droves of people pour into towns for at least two days for tournament play. That means big business for small towns, especially restaurants and hotels.
Winona Mayor Jerry Flowers said there is a significant increase in city sales tax numbers during the many tournament weekends held at the Winona Recreational Park throughout the year.
“When you get 5,000 people in here over a six month period, it greatly enhances the sales tax,” Flowers said.
In Winona, the tournaments held at the park throughout the year have helped build the youth ball program. Through team fees, admissions, parking, and concession profits, the city has been able to expand the park over the years.
According to Flowers, in just the first year of Park Director Mike Narmour’s tenure at the city multiple tournaments were booked, the city made an additional $90,000. Flowers said the park’s profits are invested back into the park.
Flowers said each year, the city makes improvements to the park. Over the last five years, the city has constructed a new baseball field and is nearly finished with the construction of a new soccer field. The fencing around the baseball fields was also replaced. A new restroom facility was built as well as walkways and drainage systems. In addition, the tennis court surfaces were painted, thanks to the Winona Tennis Association and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Growing up in Southaven, I know what a great park system can do for a city. For years, Southaven was like any other small town in Mississippi. It had its busy business district on Stateline Road, one large high school, and basic recreational ball program played at small parks around the city. Goodman Road was two lanes, although very busy with residential traffic.
Then overnight, it exploded, and there are several reasons why I believe this occurred. One of those reasons is the construction of Snowden Grove Park, and the subsequent redevelopment of Greenbrook Park, one of the small neighborhood ball parks, in the late 1990s.
I believe there is an indirect correlation between the construction of the park and the commercial boom of the Goodman Road corridor and the rapid population growth.
It is all about the quality of life. If a community makes a significant investment in its young people through education and recreation, new families and businesses are not far behind.