Town and Gown Cooperating For Baseball Event

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn University Athletic Department is opening its arms and doors for a major youth baseball tournament that will be played in the city of Auburn in August.

The event will bring back one of Auburn's most famous athletes, Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, as the keynote speaker for the opening ceremonies on Sunday at Plainsman Park, where Jackson was a baseball star for the Tigers in addition to his exploits on the football field.

There will be a variety of other Auburn University connections for the golden anniversary of the Dixie Youth World Series, that will crown champions in an event for nine and 10-year-olds and a separate tournament for 11 and 12-year-olds.

Jeremy Roberts, of Auburn University's sports marketing department, says that AU is glad to be a part of the event that will run from August 7-13th.

"It is an opportunity for us to showcase our facilities and our university to the 22 teams that are going to participate in what we believe will be a first class event," Roberts says. "When these nine, 10, 11 and 12-year-olds consider where they want to go to college five, six or seven years down the road, we hope they will look positively at Auburn.

"I am not talking about just athletically, but as students who want to attend Auburn not to compete in intercollegiate athletics," Roberts adds. "It is likely that 95 percent of the players in the tournament won't play any more baseball following high school."

Roberts points out that AU honored the Phenix City Little League League team that won the U.S. championship and reached the championship game of the Little League World Series in 1999. This year three of those players are expected to play for Coach Tom Slater's 2006 team and another player from that team has committed to play for AU in 2007.

The home of the baseball Tigers, Plainsman Park, will be used for the opening ceremonies on August 6th. Roberts is in charge of planning for that event.

There will be a home run derby at Jane B. Moore Field, home of the AU women's softball team.

There will be a dinner at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the players in the event and the university has volunteered the use of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for the opening ceremonies if there is rain.

The Auburn University connections continue with the two host teams from Auburn having former AU football players on the coaching staff--Benji Roland and Kurt Crain.

"We hope all of the participants have a fun and memorable experience," Roberts says.

The Bo Cavin complex has two new fields for the DYL World Series and four others.

The person who originally came up with the idea to be the host site for the event, Ron Anders, is excited that tournament is almost here after years of planning and contributions by literally hundreds of volunteers.

Anders notes that a newspaper article he read provided the spark to get the event started. "My wife is from a little town named Hartford, near Dothan," says Anders. "I was down there one summer reading the Dothan Eagle. Somebody in that area was hosting the World Series and I said, ‘Why aren't we doing this?'

"I came back home and got a meeting with (parks and recreation director) Becky Richardson and (youth baseball director) Bo Cavin and took them to lunch and said, ‘What is keeping us from doing this?' They said, at the time, it was facilities and hotels.

"We were about to embark on building the new facility, which is called Bo Cavin Complex, which was opened in 2000," Anders says. "We knew Auburn was growing and more hotels were coming. We said let's go talk to the city manager and the mayor and get their blessings and then we will move forward.

"We scheduled a meeting with Mayor Bill Ham, who had just been elected, and (former city manager) Doug Watson, and they said this is great, you have got the city's full support, go forward. They never hamstrung me on the committee. They told me to go get who I wanted."

The Bo Cavin complex is located on East Glenn Avenue at next to Duck Samford Stadi8um.

The event is expected to bring 350 players and coaches to the city and approximately 1,800-2,000 people. "We could have 6,000 to 8,000 people at the park on the first night," Anders says. "We fully intend on filling up Plainsman Park for the opening ceremony. The governor (Bob Riley) will be there and Bo (Jackson) is our opening night speaker. On a Sunday night, we think that is going to be a fun thing for any family to want to watch and be a part of."

Anders says more than 400 former Dixie Youth League officials will attend the event because the organization plans to honor them during its anniversary ceremonies.

The tournament starts on Monday, August 8th and the championship games will be on Saturday, Aug. 13th. In addition to the two teams from Auburn in the field that are awarded spots in the event as the host city, there will be even more local flavor with the Opelika Dixie Youth League team in the field as the state champion of Alabama.

"On Saturday, August 6th, Dixie Youth is having their golden anniversary at the AU Hotel and Conference Center that night," Anders notes. "They are dropping a lot of money on that. Because it is the 50th, they are bringing back all of their field level volunteers and all of their retired volunteers as a reward and a way of saying thank you. Instead of having around 110-115 Dixie Youth officials in town, we are going over 400. We have two-thirds of the hotel rooms in the two cities booked at this time. They are making a bigger deal over this one because it is the golden anniversary."

There are even more AU connections with the event. The AU Hotel and Conference Center will be the tournament headquarters. On Sunday, August 7th the players will be invited to have a Tiger Walk style ceremony on Donahue Drive on campus. AU football team chaplain Chette Williams will have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast for the players. There will be a social event for tournament officials at the university's new art museum and at the university president's home. The tournament directors will be the guest of AU athletic department officials at a reception being held at the Tiger Walk Plaza.

Around 400 volunteers a day from the AU campus and town are expected to help run the event. Pictured is one of control buildings at the Bo Cavin complex.

Anders says letters of support from officials such as the university president, athletic director and head football coach helped his committee secure the bid. Coach Tommy Tuberville has invited teams to attend an AU football practice.

Another connection is that the Auburn Network will be doing radio broadcasts of each game that can be heard on the internet or picked up by local radio stations in the home markets of the participating teams. The championship games will be telecast on CSS with AU baseball and football announcers Rod Bramblett and Andy Burcham calling the games. Also, the AU statistics crew will do the scoring and stats for the games.

Anders says the event will culminate six years of planning and says he is thrilled with the support received from Auburn University in helping the committee secure the golden anniversary series for its newly expanded youth baseball complex. Anders says, "If it wasn't for the university, and the athletic department in particular, I don't know how we would have beaten Goodlettsville for the bid because we were essentially going against the Grand Ole' Opry and Nashville.

He adds, "As you can tell, the university's fingerprints are all over this event and we really appreciate that."

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