Tournament Time

Critical to the success of any baseball park is the quality of umpiring officials – the folks most players and coaches love to hate. If you have ever played baseball or softball, do your experiences match these? “The strike is consistent for both teams.” Umpires are “skilled professionals.” “Even questionable calls left you smiling after talking to the umpire.”

Scotty Baker, program manager, keeps a tight rein on the umpiring staff. “Umpiring chiefs have developed an excellent system of screening potential umpires,” he says. “Each candidate is a high school-certified state umpire and receives additional training by Snowden staff. We have an ongoing review process, and when we have problems they are quickly addressed,” says Baker.

Perhaps the fact that Mayor Davis umpired in Memphis for eight years is a factor as well.

Continual Review and Improvement

City Administrator Chris Wilson states the city’s philosophy when he says that Southaven is constantly looking at improving its facilities. Among recent improvements, Wilson describes the following.

In 2002, Mayor Davis and the Board of Aldermen voted to build a “Field of Dreams” — a baseball field to accommodate handicapped and mentally challenged children and adults. The concept plan adopted by the city called for a three-field complex with parking and concessions. The decision was made, however, to move forward with a single field, parking and a pavilion with additions to come in the future. A private donation of $500,000 seeded this project. “Snowden Grove is already the country’s showplace for youth baseball,” said Mayor Davis. “With the addition of the Field of Dreams, it will become the crown jewel.”

By 2005, the city was receiving comments from Snowden Grove clients that shade would be welcomed. In 2006 the comfort level of park patrons increased with the installation of 41 Shade Systems shades. The effort did not go unnoticed. Phillip Allison, whose team participated in the 2006 USSSA 10AAAA World Series last July, wrote: “The canopies over the bleachers were greatly appreciated!”

The park staff benefited with the selection of Shade Systems products as well. In addition to the quality and warranties, they also have a patented Turn-N-Slide easy-fastening system to allow for quick removal and re-attachment by park staff, eliminating the cost of expensive outside installers each season.

WiFi is now available at the fields, allowing parents either to work or to update family and friends on athlete and team performance instantly. Next on the to-do list is the retrofit of one of the fields into a 2,500- to 3,000-seat stadium to house high school and collegiate baseball games.

Is Southaven accomplishing its goals? Despite rising youth population, the crime rate remains low, 1.7 percent compared to Memphis’ 17.5 percent. Is it the premier youth sports venue of the Southeast? Mayor Davis says he’s heard of a facility in Texas that built 18 fields, but he’s not worried. Southaven has the bases loaded and is up to bat!

Linda Stalvey is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Parks & Rec Business who gave up Washington, D.C., public relations to indulge her passion for parks, environment and outdoor activities in Medina, Ohio.

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