Monett will once again be the center of the universe, well maybe just the center of the Missouri 13-year-old Babe Ruth baseball universe, when it plays host to the five-day Missouri State Championship Tournament.
Eight teams from across Missouri, from Sikeston to Boonville and including Cassville, will descend upon Monett beginning Wednesday July 21.
The teams, their parents, families and supporters will be treated to a cookout to welcome them to our city at 6 p.m. at the Monett South Park pavilion, adjacent to the Lions Club barbeque pit. Many of the food items have been generously donated by a number of Monett-area businesses.
All teams will participate in the mandatory team check-in at which time each player will receive a welcoming gift bag containing many items provided by various area businesses.
Immediately following check-in and the cookout, all players and youth family members will be invited to swim at the Monett pool for free courtesy of the City of Monett. All other fans will be treated to the musical entertainment provided by Heart's Cry, a country, gospel and comedy band. This free concert will take place in the park's amphitheater, adjacent to the aquatic center.
Tournament games will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 22 and conclude on the afternoon of Sunday, July 25 when the State Champion will be crowned. All games will take place at the Monett North Park Sports Complex, on Field #6, which is also known as the high school baseball field.
Monett Mayor Jim Orr will be present to greet the visitors and toss the ceremonial first pitch to commemorate the start of tournament play on Thursday morning.
The festivities will not end there. The Monett team will take the field at 5 p.m. on Thursday immediately following opening ceremonies, which will include a performance by the Monett High School Pizzazz Poms dance team.
Legendary TV sports anchor, Ned Reynolds from KY-3 TV in Springfield, will be present to address the nearly 500 expected guests and throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Springfield Cardinals' own Louie the Cardinal will also make a guest appearance. Assisted by the Pizzazz Poms dance team, Louie will greet the kids and distribute event T-shirts to the crowd. All players will then be introduced on the field prior to starting that game.
Hiland Dairy will also be at the park providing free ice-cream to park guests.
"We are very excited about the opportunity that has presented itself once again for Monett," said Ken Gaspar tournament committee member. "When (tournament director) Charlie Steward approached the Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League Board with this idea back in April, our league was completely on-board and his enthusiasm has been contagious among the other committee members."
The Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League has hosted many other state and regional tournaments at the North Park Sports Complex.
"This event is shaping up to be one of the best events we have ever organized," said Gaspar. "The dedication of the entire Tournament Committee will be evident in the event itself. We have hosted tournaments of all sizes and age groups, both baseball and softball. There has not been a single tournament whereby someone has not expressed to us how nice our facility is."
The League appreciates the support of the City of Monett in providing such a facility and the staff that maintains the park, especially Larry Howard who has been working closely with the League.
The public is encouraged to come to the park to help cheer on the teams, which are competing to be called Missouri's best and represent Missouri in the Regional Tournament and possibly a World Series.
The eventual Missouri State Champion will go on St. Paul, Minn., to compete in the Midwest Plains Regional, and from there to Levelland, Texas, for the Babe Ruth World Series.
Tournament organizers estimate that next week's state tournament will attrack 400 people to the Monett area during the event's five-day run. This equates to an economic impact of nearly $100,000 for the Monett community.
Members of the Tournament Committee include: Kirk Verhoff, president of the Monett Youth Baseball and Softball Leagues; Ken Gaspar, treasurer of the Monett Youth Baseball and Softball League and concessions director; Lori Gaspar, secretary of the Monett Youth Baseball & Softball League; Jeff Phillips, tournament director; Charlie Steward, tournament director; Melody Phillips, gate chairperson; Rhonda Sperandio, mandatory check-in chairperson; and Steve Sperandio, Renea Hammond, Susan Childress, Megan Schied, Teresa Steward, Barbara Abramovitz, Paul and Terri Swanson, Julie Logan, Tim and Missy Reavis, Dan and Leslie Weathermon, Todd and April Wood and Nathan Garner, committee members.