Rain delays extend state tournament in Oxford this week
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Jul 23, 2013 | 4371 views |  0 comments | 106 106 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eight-year-old Hayden Coppock of Oxford passes the time of the rain delay to play in the puddles around home plate on one of the fields. Heavy rains forced the stoppage of play at a Dixie Youth League baseball tournament in Oxford Tuesday. Photo by Trent Penny.
Eight-year-old Hayden Coppock of Oxford passes the time of the rain delay to play in the puddles around home plate on one of the fields. Heavy rains forced the stoppage of play at a Dixie Youth League baseball tournament in Oxford Tuesday. Photo by Trent Penny.
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OXFORD – Bad weather has hampered the Alabama Dixie Youth Baseball AAA State Tournament, held in Oxford this week, but the 16 teams and several hundred visitors are staying around regardless.

Organizers said Tuesday afternoon that the games will continue when the rain subsides.

“Even with a year of preparation, you can’t control that,” said Will Estell, Oxford Baseball for Youth board member and coach of the Oxford Black all-star team.

Grounds crews battled the weather Saturday – opening day of the tournament – but with 2 inches of rain recorded in the Anniston area that day, they were unable to stave off the water. The day’s games were canceled about three innings into the first game, pushing the tournament schedule back a full day.

Those crews were at it again Tuesday after a light rain early in the day. Games began around 11 a.m., but less than an hour after the first pitch, heavy rains emptied the grandstands sending rain soaked visitors scrambling for cover.

Tuesday’s games were pushed back twice because of heavy rains, and were eventually cancelled. The National Weather Service office in Calera recorded that Anniston received more than 2 inches of rain by Tuesday afternoon. The tournament could stretch into Saturday if the weather doesn't improve, Estell said.

The National Weather Service predicts showers and thunderstorms for the Anniston area Wednesday morning and into the afternoon, but by Thursday the skies should clear.

Showers may return Friday, the weather service predicts, with a 20 percent chance of rain during the day, and 40 percent chance of rain on Saturday.

Rain aside, the 240 or so players and coaches have been a boost to area businesses, said Gary Sparks, who serves on the committee organizing the tournament.

“And that’s not counting all the parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters that are here,” Sparks said. “They’re all going to eat in our restaurants and buy gas. They’re going to our shopping centers.”

Oxford hasn’t hosted a state tournament since 2003, partly due to the amount of work and large number of volunteers it takes to pull it off, Sparks explained. But last year, the Oxford Youth Baseball board submitted a bid and was selected to host the 2013 tournament.

They’ll likely bid to host it again in 2015, Estell said. The tournament shifts each year from north to south Alabama.

And there’s a good chance that Oxford will have built the city’s proposed sports complex by then, Estell said.

“We’re told it will be the best baseball facility in the state of Alabama,” Estell said.

Piedmont’s all-star squad was the only local team remaining in play Tuesday.

Estell said his players had a great run this year, winning 25 straight games in regular season and tournament play. Oxford lost to Munroe 4-2 Monday, ending the team’s run.

Opening day ceremonies were held in the newly-renovated Oxford Civic Center Saturday, and on Sunday morning, a church service was held for visiting teams and their families in the center’s gym.

Wilfred Dailey stood underneath an umbrella Tuesday while his grandson, Brett, stood in uniform, looking out over a wet baseball field.

Dailey drove just more than 200 miles from Thomasville for the tournament, and said he’s enjoyed his time in Oxford. A cook at Waffle House even stopped long enough to welcome Dailey to the city, he said.

“It’s really nice. My wife and I spent the day at Cheaha Mountain Monday,” Dailey said. “It’s been a good little visit.”

Monroe resident Joe Witherington explained that his family drove 250 miles from south Alabama just to find themselves playing local rivals, Thomasville.

Witherington estimated his family will spend around $1,000 in the Oxford area during the tournament, a trip that could end if Thomasville were to beat Monroe in the next round.

Witherington’s son, 10-year-old Jordan, expressed confidence Tuesday that his team will win, if only the rain will stop long enough to play ball.

“Hope so, because we’ve got to send Thomasville home,” Jordan said.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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