E.A. Sports Today

Dixie Softball Series Still a Go

Oxford saying it couldn’t host would be the only thing keeping event from coming to Choccolocco Park in July – and that hasn’t happened yet
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – The Dixie Softball World Series still plans on coming to Choccolocco Park later this summer whether it has a full field or all the states represented.

The only thing that would keep it from coming at this point, the national president of the organization said Monday, is if Oxford officials told them they couldn’t hold the event – and then he’d go looking for another venue.
And that hasn’t happened yet.
Sports organizations around the world have been scrambling for guidance to make decisions on their events during the coronavirus pandemic. Events like the Dixie Youth 12-and-Under and Little League World Series already have been canceled, but Dixie Softball remains on track.
“I would think probably around the fifth of June you should know what you’ve got,” said Obi Evans, national president of Dixie Softball. “Right now we don’t really know what we do have. The only thing that could cancel our World Series is if Oxford, Alabama, called me up and said we can’t do it. I’ve been in correspondence with them and we’re still on the go there.
“Right now that’s the only thing as far as I’m concerned that would stop us. And if they said they couldn’t, I’d get on the phone trying to find some ballparks that would.”
Teams from 11 states in all age divisions are expected to arrive in Oxford July 31. Don Hudson, Oxford’s PARD director, said the city is “very pleased to host their tournament,” noting it hasn’t canceled any event from the end of July forward. The city hosted the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series in 2017 and Hudson said “we are really looking forward to another successful tournament.”

Now, if all the teams can get here …
With the deadline moved from April 1 to June 1, leagues around the south are starting to franchise for participation this season. The governors of Louisiana, North Carolina and Virginia have not opened their states yet, so leagues there have yet to franchise and Texas has been slow on the draw, but Evans believes leagues from the Lone Star State will start coming on line within the next two weeks. 
In Alabama, the focus is on having a league season, state director Warren Bowron said. Timing also may prevent state associations from holding district tournaments, throwing state tournaments into an open field affair. The Alabama state tournament is scheduled to be played in Enterprise. Evans has told states if only one league in an age group franchises within a state, it would be the one representing the state in that bracket of the World Series.
“The more days we wait and if we get into June before we start playing a regular season we probably will not play any district (tournament) and probably go straight into state,” Bowron said. “We would love to have a full slate of 10-12 teams in each age division for a World Series … but there are just a lot of variables that we really don’t know right now.”
“We’re in the same place they are; we really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hudson said. “We’re just playing it by ear. There are some tournaments you might have to wait two weeks before the tournament being held, if they can wait that long, for people to decide. People understand; we’re just in a wait-and-see type deal.”

A cancelation of the season would be “devastating” for Dixie Softball, Evans said, putting it in “a real financial bind,” perhaps for the next two or three years. The non-profit organization is staffed largely by volunteer directors and funds its operation from the fees it receives from its franchises. It already has ordered and paid for some requisite materials for this year’s season.
Evans said he has asked already-franchised leagues if they’d allow the organization to credit their franchise fee to 2021 if this season were canceled.
It would be equally upsetting for the girls, particularly the group still playing that got caught up in a decision three years ago to change the group’s age cut-off by eight months.
“Some of those girls who were born between January and July had to move up one year and we got a lot of grief on it,” Evans said. “Of course they got to play, but they had to move up. Now, here you have a couple years later they’re (impacted) again.
“To be honest with you that’s one of the main reasons I’m fighting so hard. It’s strictly for the girls, especially those who felt like they got messed up a couple years ago. If we don’t get in there and fight for every opportunity to play ball, we wouldn’t be doing all the girls right.”
The group does have contingency and safety plans in place for when it does get to play. Among the situations being discussed are not letting anyone into the ballpark except the two teams playing on a specific field and their followers, then allowing them to exit before allowing the next two teams in; shutting off public drinking fountains; and requiring teams to serve bottled water in their dugouts. There also have been suggestions of sanitizing the ball after each pitch.
Evans said the governing body was allowing each association to play by whatever rules their state allows and it would follow Alabama guidelines when it got to the World Series. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to issue new COVID-19 guidance for continued reopening of the state Friday.
He said he has taken “a lot of grief” on social media for holding his ground about playing, but he defends the action, saying the organization has never forcing anyone to play.
“We’ll run it on a common-sense program,” Evans said. “We’ll use our common sense to do what we can and can’t do and hope you use your common sense, too.
“We might be the only ones left trying to have it, but we’re going to do our dead-level best to have it. Oxford deserves it.”

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