PASCAGOULA -- Friday's O-Zone Dixie Youth World Series opening ceremony officially opened a week of championship baseball play with team introductions, music, fun, food and even fireworks.
FIRST ROUND GAMES HAVE BEEN DELAYED BY RAIN. ALL SATURDAY GAMES WILL BE PLAYED SUNDAY. LEBANON'S ROTARY ALL-STARS, THE TENNESSEE CHAMPS, WILL PLAY HOST PASCAGOULA SUNDAY AT 8 P.M.
Event organizers, members of the 12 participating teams, their families and local residents gathered at Pascagoula High School's War Memorial Stadium for the ceremony, which included a speech by former Ole Miss and Major League baseball player Chris Snopek.
Frank Corder, World Series chairman and Pascagoula city councilman, said planning for the event has gone well with normal minor "hiccups," and he encouraged Pascagoula residents to come out and help support the tournament.
"I'm hoping the local people also support this to help pay for these games over the week," Corder said.
Local band Lookin' 4 Juice provided entertainment before the ceremony and during the fireworks. The teams were introduced and walked out onto the field as their family and friends cheered them on. Snopek then encouraged the athletes to play hard, persevere and pray.
"I think it's important for kids to reach goals, to reach big levels of tournaments or games, just because they can kind of see what it's like, and I think that's an impact for life," Snopek said. "As they get on in high school and college, they know hard work pays off."
Corder said the committee asked Snopek to speak because of his ties to Mississippi and his achievements at the professional level. "It just fit perfectly," Corder said.
Bill Glenn, who is involved in organizing and promoting the event, said the tournament represents a special time in the lives of the players.
"You're only 12 years old once in your life, and they have an opportunity to win a World Series and it may never happen again in their entire lives," Glenn said. "So this one week of their lives could be one of their most important, really."
Glenn said he was glad for the city to be hosting the event, because it ensured that local kids would get a chance to play.
"We've watched them grow up, and it's going to be interesting to see how they do," Glenn said. "But at the end of the day, I think anybody you ask will say they do this for the kids and because of the kids. There's nothing better than kids and baseball."
The tournament was scheduled to start Saturday with games beginning at 3 p.m. In the first games, Texarkana West (Ark.), meets Christiansburg (Va.), and Shreveport American (La.), meets North Stanly, N.C. At 5:30 p.m., Texarkana (Texas), plays Columbia County (Ga.), and Greenville South (Miss.), plays Dothan National Blue (Ala.).
The final games on Saturday begin at 8 p.m. with West Volusia American (Fla.) taking on Sumter (S.C.) and Lebanon (Tenn.) playing Pascagoula.