Shirley Winston Park site for tournament for first time
By KEVIN PRICE
Roderick Williams loves baseball. He played it as a youth and continued through a career at Alcorn State University.
When he moved to Columbus 12 years ago, he knew he wanted to be involved with the sport so he became a coach at Sally Little League, where his son was playing T-ball.
He coached until he became league president four years ago with a goal of increasing participation in the sport he loves.
A major step toward that goal takes place today as Sally hosts the District 8 Little League All-Star tournament at Shirley Winston Park on Steam Mill Road.
It will be the first time Sally has hosted the tournament since it moved to Shirley Winston Park from Belvedere Park. Shirley Winston Park, which is named after a slain Columbus police officer, opened in the summer of 1999 as one of four recreation supercenters.
Sally is hosting three baseball and three softball tournaments beginning Friday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. All six champions will go on to play in state tournaments in July.
"This means a lot to me and the league," Williams said. "It means we are getting a little recognition. Sally is a great league to play for. We don't have the participation that other leagues do. This is a positive step. The revenue generated from this tournament will help us do a lot."
Former league president Bruce Huff said it is a real honor and privilege to host the tournament.
"There is so much history in the league," Huff said. "The kids and parents travel to play various tournaments at the other leagues. You don't know when your chance to host will come."
Williams and District 8 administrator Bernard Ashley had been talking about Sally hosting either the Tommy Smith Tournament of Champions or the all-star tournament.
And after Sally successfully hosted the state junior
baseball tournament last July, Ashley called Williams with a request that Sally host the all-star tournament.
"We did pretty good hosting the state tournament," Williams said. "Along with the condition of the fields, we have a good facility."
Sally has just one team in the all-star tournament. The Sally 10-11 baseball team will open against Harris County at 5:30 p.m. today.
"Our numbers are down this year, and that bothers me," Williams said. "It has been a tough season overall. Last year we had 163, this year we had 137."
"My goal is to get it where we have 350-400 kids, but money has a lot to do with it for the parents here."
But Sally is not the only one to suffer a drop in participation.
Only Pioneer, Northern and American will have teams in all six tournaments. Eastern and National have no teams playing this year. Harris County has five and Peach three.
The three softball winners will not have to go far, as Pioneer Little League (Britt David Road) is hosting those state tournaments starting on July 13.
The 9-10 baseball state tournament will start July 13 in Franklin County, while the 10-11 tournament will begin the same day in Peachtree City.
The 11-12 state tournament will start July 20 in Savannah.
Kevin Price, 706-320-4493