Tournament organizers said the vast majority of the feedback they received from coaches and parents was extremely positive, and they hope to make the youth baseball tournament even bigger and better in 2013.
"I think it went great," said Shawn Crawford with the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Recreation Association, who co-hosted the event with the Ringgold Youth Athletic Association. "We had 85 total teams, not many problems, and a whole lot of compliments. We're looking forward to a big tournament next year."
The 85 teams, representing Georgia and Tennessee, held Opening Ceremonies at Lake Winnepesaukah before receiving discounts to the park. The majority of the teams came from the Northwest Georgia/Metro-Chattanooga area, although some teams traveled from as far away as Carroll County (Ga.) and the Metro-Atlanta area to play ball.
Josh Chandler of the RYAA reiterated that tournament teams, coaches, and fans seemed more than pleased with their tournament experience.
"We lost a day or two because of the rain, but for the most part, everything stayed on schedule and everyone seemed positive about it," he said. "Almost all of the feedback we got was good, and that rarely happens at a tournament. Everybody has been saying they want to come back and do this again next year. The umpires did a great job for us too, and we also got a lot of positive compliments about the jobs they did.
"We're hoping (the tournament) could double next year, once these teams get back home and talk to other teams in their areas and tell them know how it ran."
Crawford and Chandler said initial planning for the tournament, which encompassed seven different age divisions, began back in January, but really got cranked up in May. They added that the idea was to give teams a chance of playing in a big tournament closer to home.
"The Dizzy Dean World Series is usually made up of about 70 percent teams from Georgia every year," Chandler explained. "With (Dizzy Dean) moving all the World Series tournaments to Southaven, Mississippi, we were hearing a lot of teams weren't going to make the trip, so we started talking about doing something. It really came together and we hope to make it bigger and better next year."
"We were hoping and anticipating for somewhere around 60 teams for the first year," Crawford added. "But we went well above that and we're very happy about that.
Crawford felt the tournament, and future Rick Honeycutt World Series tournaments, would bring in lots of revenue dollars for the county, adding that he had already gotten a lot of positive feedback from restaurants and other local businesses.
"We talked to the owner at Zaxby's in Fort Oglethorpe, and were told business had increased around 12 percent (during the first week of the tournament), and I'm sure a lot of other business profited from this tournament as well," he continued. "I hope the community will really get behind what we're doing and help us keep this tournament locally. It's always nice to see the money being spent in town rather than out of town."
Chandler added that it was also nice to see LFO and Ringgold put aside their friendly on-field rivalry and work together to benefit kids and the county as a whole.
"Normally, it doesn't work that way," he explained. "But Shawn and I have known each other a long time, and I grew up playing ball with his younger brother, Craig, so we've had a background together for years. We got together early and started throwing the idea around, and Shawn just took the ball and ran with it. I got on board with him and it really took off from there."
One of the folks impressed with the event was Tommy Ferguson, coach of the Rossville Reds, who won the 10-year-old division title at Ringgold last Thursday night.
"These folks put on a great tournament down here," Ferguson said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the amount of teams in (the tournament) tripled by next year. It's just a great thing for the teams that want to play, but don't want to have to travel miles and miles to get to a tournament."
Bartow County Blue (Ga.) was crowned 6-year-old Gold bracket champions with the New Georgia Orioles finishing as runners-up. Dade County defeated the Boynton Scrappers in the 6-year-old Silver bracket finals.
The Smryna (Ga.) Sweepers won the 7-year-old bracket by defeating East Ridge (Tenn.) twice. The Ooltewah (Tenn.) Owls took the 8-year-old championship with a win over Middle Valley (Tenn.).
Bradley County (Tenn.) was crowned 9-year-old champions after beating Gordon County (Ga.), while Rossville took down the Middle Valley Patriots in the 10-year-old title tilt.
Host LFO won the 11-year-old title over the South Cherokee Indians, while LFO's 12-year-olds beat the Hobgood Heat in their championship game.