UC Ripken League ready for bigger and better

UC Ripken League ready for bigger and better
Union City Cal Ripken League president Bill Davis is hopeful that bigger will mean better when the city hosts the Rookie League’s Southeast Regional July 24-27.
During that weekend, 20 teams — including a host team from Union City — will converge at Graham Park to compete for a spot in the Cal Ripken World Series.
“Not to take away from the Babe Ruth Southeast Regionals we have had in the past, but this tournament should dwarf those in terms of revenue for the city and this area,” Davis said. “We’re going to have people in hotels all the way from Union City to Paducah and maybe, even to Jackson during those five days.
“And those people are going to have to eat and shop while they are in town. I remember in years past, the forecasted impact was somewhere around $250,000 for the Southeast Regional, so I think with the recent inflation the tournament will have a greater impact than that amount.”
Check-in for the yet-to-be determined participants in the tournament will be July 23 at 5 p.m. with a picnic to follow.
The action on the field kicks off July 24 with opening ceremonies slated for 5:30 at Graham Park.
The title game for the SE Regional is set for July 27 at the city’s recently-refurbished Union City Minor League Field at 3 p.m.
The event will mark the fourth time in the last decade that UC has hosted a Southeast Regional event.
Though in the past the community has offered host families, it is no longer a requirement for a Southeast Regional. However, Davis still plans to have what he termed “human GPS systems” on hand to assist in getting out-of-towners to and from their destinations.
“We do not have to have host families like they used to, but we will have some local people set up to help teams wash clothes or take in local sights if they would like to,” Davis said.
On the field last year, Thompson Field and Elam Stadium were the sites for the 13-year-olds Southeast Regional, as was the local park in 2000.
In 2003, Union City played host to the region’s top 16-year-old teams.
“We put in for the tournament because we thought our Cal Ripken League could do it,” Davis said. “With the help of Nelda Pritchard, who is our regional director who knows first-hand what type of tournament that Union City has run in the past, it was granted to us.
“She believed in us and she knows the capabilities we have in place here with Chris Crockett and his groundskeeping crew.”
But things will be different this time around.
For starters, the tournament is under the sanctions of Cal Ripken Baseball, which is a subsidiary of the Babe Ruth League designed to incorporate children ages 8-12.
Furthermore, rather than facing a different pitcher each game, all of the batters in the 8-year-old age group will face a sling-arm pitching machine that is set to throw each pitch at 43 miles per hour.
“The new pitching machine that they use is much better than the old one that spun the ball out and just served it up down the middle every time,” Davis explained. “This pitching machine has a little abnormality when it comes to where the ball is going to be in the strike zone and that helps these young players get accustomed to live pitching.”
Four fields of play will be used during the tournament with the title game set to be played at the Minor League field.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker @ucmessenger.com.

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