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Teams arrive for tournament

Jul. 12, 2013 @ 12:23 AM

BARBOURSVILLE — Once the first pitch is thrown in the 2013 Softball Little League State Championships at Barboursville Community Park on Friday, it will be all about competition.

But the only competition taking place during the picnic and opening ceremonies Thursday at the park was who could get the biggest grin on their face while doing the “Harlem Shake” on the crowded amphitheater stage, where a riot of uniform colors came together in a human collage.

“This is a night for everyone to get together and mingle and just have fun,” said tournament director Sid Stephenson. “We want everyone to come away with a great experience.”

Thirty-six teams are competing in the tournament, which is divided into age groups of 9-10, 10-11, and the Majors (11 and 12), some coming from far afield in the Mountain State to compete in Barboursville.

In years past, the different little league districts hosted different age groups. Last year was the first time all three played in the same place. District 4 in Beckley hosted that event, and this year it was District 1’s turn.

“The reason they did that is because some of these groups were only getting three or four teams, so it wasn’t really a tournament atmosphere,” Stephenson said. “It was more of a come and play a couple of games and go home type of thing.”

District 1 administrator Greg Adkins was the one who volunteered his district as a site for this year’s tournament, after the success of having all of the games in one area last year.

“When I went to the fall meeting I said we’d like to give it a try ourselves, and the reason was because Barboursville has such great facilities,” Adkins said. “If we didn’t have Barboursville (Little League) on board, I probably wouldn’t have taken this on.”

Both Adkins and Stephenson called the event an economic boon for Barboursville and the greater Huntington area, considering there are at least 12 players on every team, plus coaching staff and families all coming into town for the tournament, which is scheduled to run through Sunday, but could go on through Monday if necessary.

For the teams coming in, it’s an opportunity for so many positive things. At least that’s what Bill Varney, coach of the District 8 10-11 champions Clay County, had to say.

“The atmosphere here is great, and I think it’s a lot more than what our girls anticipated,” Varney said. “We haven’t played in a lot of tournaments. Softball is kind of new to our area. In fact, this is the first year we had two teams to draw all-stars from.

“I think this is great, and it will be a good experience for them, and they’ll go back and tell their friends and then maybe next year we’ll have four teams to draw from. They can meet people from other teams, other areas of the state, and make friendships that might last forever, you know?”

While everyone was friendly Thursday, some players couldn’t help looking around and sizing up their opponents.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of competition,” said 12-year-old Alayna Hall, of District 3 champs Boone Northern. “I didn’t think we’d get this far. It’s been a great experience.”
As for the Barboursville majors team, which is going for a fourth straight state title, it’s good to be home.

“It means a lot,” coach Steve Hardin said. “We’ve never played at home, and we’ve all been talking about how nice it will be to sleep in our own beds.”