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Atmore announced as site of two Cal Ripken tournaments

By By Matthew Nascone
Hundreds of children and adults from across the state of Alabama will flood the streets of Atmore this July when the city plays host to two Cal Ripken League baseball state tournaments.
The 2007 Alabama Cal Ripken Baseball league 12 and under advance state tournament will take place July 5-9 and the 10 and under state tournament will be from July 12-16. Each tournament will involve 10 teams and include 22 total games each.
"These tournaments will allow us to showcase the city of Atmore and our local baseball program," said Murray Johnson, Atmore Cal Ripken League commissioner. "This is not our first state tournament we have hosted, but it is our biggest."
Atmore hosted the 12 and under and 7 and under state tournaments in 2004 when the tournaments were double elimination. Johnson said the new format would allow each team at least four games in the tournament, with a consolation game and championship game.
In 2005 the Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth state tournaments changed format to the current pool play format. Atmore has also hosted the state tournament in 2000 and 1998.
The "advance" way of playing is a new way that will be implemented in 2007 for the Cal Ripken Major League program. This change basically involves a move from 60-foot bases to 70-foot base paths and a pitching mound that is 50 feet from home plate rather than 46 feet. Johnson said the Atmore Cal Ripken Major League will play their 2007 season under the new rules so the players can get ready for the state tournament.
The process for attaining a state tournament is a complex process.
"The host site is selected based on many things, including, the experience from past tournaments at that site, the ability to host the tournament, the community support for the program and the determination to secure the bid by the local league," Johnson said.
Johnson traveled to Mobile for the annual Winter Babe Ruth State Commissioners Meeting Jan. 20 to sign the contract for hosting. The Cal Ripken League is under the Babe Ruth League umbrella and Alabama Babe Ruth State Commissioner Eugene Reynolds was present when Johnson signed the contract.
Johnson may have signed the tournament, but he said he understands he is not the only one involved with this process.
"The community support for our league was also a factor in the decision to allow us to host these tournaments," he said. "It is going to take a lot of planning and organizing, but we have experience with these things."
Johnson said the league could not pull off this job without some help from the local community businesses.
"We will need the support from our local motels to block off rooms for us and the Best Western has agreed to support us already," Johnson said. "And it is good because when all these people come they will need a place to sleep, eat and have fun. And we want them to feel like this is their home away from home."
The Best Western is not the only business that has supported the league.
"We have great support from our mayor, Howard Shell, and the city council," Johnson said. "Melvin Middleton and his staff have also been great to us. The police department, the fire department, the public safety division and the street and sanitation department have also supported us."
And when it comes to volunteers Johnson has described them as "the best."
"We have some of the best, if not the best volunteers helping us," he said. "Whether it is league officers, the board of directors, team managers and coaches, umpires or concession stand workers, we have the best. And our concession stand is the most efficient and clean operation you will find anywhere. Cindy Young is our concessions manager and she does an excellent job."
All of these factors have helped Atmore secure what should be an exciting two weeks of baseball action.
(See Sunday's Atmore Advance for a story on what type of impact this tournament could have on the Atmore economy.)