E.A. Sports Today

OVC officials look around

Conference administrators get first hands-on look at signature softball field at Choccolocco Park that will host the championship

The City of Oxford rolled out the welcome mat Tuesday for OVC officials who got to see the finished signature softball field at Choccolocco Park for the first time.

The City of Oxford rolled out the welcome mat Tuesday for OVC officials who got to see the finished signature softball field at Choccolocco Park for the first time.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – It took a little bit of a leap of faith, but it was one the Ohio Valley Conference coaches and administrators were willing to make in order to give their athletes an exemplary postseason experience.

Conference officials last week approved bringing their softball tournament to Choccolocco Park and Tuesday representatives put eyeballs on the signature softball field that will stage the event the next two years for the first time. Previously, their only look at the complex was through aerial video progress reports.

It’s the first time in its 23-year history the softball championship will be played on a neutral site. And it looked a lot different than when the league’s coaches first started talking about it at their meeting last May.

At the time the main softball field in the 366-acre sports complex was about 80 percent complete, with the playing surface down and some of the seating area up.

“That’s probably why the process was as thoughtful as we could be in terms of working with the city to get continual updates on the progress,” said Scott Krapf, the OVC’s assistant commissioner for championships. “Our administrators were curious about it, too. But all along we’ve been given those assurances and we were pretty confident that the facility was ready to go — and is ready to go — for us, especially when we’re here today to see it with a fresh set of eyes and really get to soak it in.

“All along I don’t think we ever had really that sense of trepidation. We were pretty confident and especially when we got to the point of voting within our groups. … It was definitely a product of thoughtful dialogue and working with the city to make sure we had everything we needed in terms of the evidence to make the vote and ultimately get the agreement done.”

The tournament had forever been staged on the campus of the No. 1 seed, but that was not necessarily an advantage. Since 2009 only one top-seeded host has won the championship.

The league didn’t formally bid the softball championship as it does others; rather, the conversation started by asking the league coaches if there were facilities in their areas worthy of hosting the event.

Many that might have been considered weren’t available for the dates the OVC was considering (May 11-14, 2016 and May 10-13, 2017). But even through that, the prospect of playing in a brand-new facility – even if it were in the southern-most reaches of the conference footprint — won out in the end.

“The facility is one of the most important factors when you’re looking at neutral sites in general across all of our sports in general,” Krapf said. “The signature field here … really fits that for softball for us.

“We want our student-athletes playing on a facility that’s first class and will get them ready to play in the postseason for our champion.”

The OVC baseball tournament is in the final year of its contract with Jackson, Tenn. Oxford PARD director Don Hudson said the city “was looking forward” to making a proposal for that championship at the appropriate time.

There also are designs on hosting the conference cross-country and track championships. If all that happens, the city could become the Southern capital of OVC championships.

“Our championships are one of most valuable assets as a conference office and we take a lot of pride in them,” Krapf said. “So, I wouldn’t say we’re looking right now to do that in any way.

“This was singularly focused on softball. It just so happens it was at the same city that hosted cross-country, but other than that any other championship we bid out.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login