Ten year old baseball players across the state of Arkansas are playing with the goal to get to Manila. The 10- year-old Cal Ripken State Baseball Tournament is scheduled to be in held in Manila July 11-15.
"I don't think a state tournament has ever been held at the Manila baseball field and we are looking forward to this event," Darrell Birmingham said.
Birmingham serves as the Vice President of the Northeast Arkansas Babe Ruth Association, and serves as vice president of the Manila Youth Association (MYA).
Tracy Reinhart, president of the MYA, is also pleased to have the state event coming to Manila.
"We have a great ball park and we are working to make it even better," Reinhart said. "There are 17 teams in Manila this summer. Thanks to donations and volunteers, the Manila Lions Club constructed new rest rooms last year. We have a sprinkler system in place. Safety nets are ordered and new fencing with better safety features have been added. New bleachers are ordered. Plans are in the making for a t-ball and soccer field, and new block, covered dugouts."
Mayor Clifford Veach recently appointed a Parks' Committee to work with the MYA and city officials in developing long range plans for the betterment of the park. Wayne Wagner serves as chairman of the committee. Members are William Hill, Dan Gamble, Terry Carr and Tina Birmingham.
Recently Manila voters passed a one fourth cent sales tax to be used for parks and recreation. Half of the revenue is being set aside for a swimming pool and half is being used for the park.
"The new committee is working hard. They have already had four or five meetings and looking down the road to a sports complex." Birmingham said. "Hopefully, in the future we will be able to accommodate more state tournaments."
Hundreds of young people utilize the park and with the added revenue, improvements will be in the future. "Hopefully, we will have funding available to match grants that may become available. We are looking at all aspects of the park -- the ballfields, tennis courts, baseball courts, and playground area," Birmingham said.
The 10-year old state tournament will bring eight of the top teams in the state with a goal of making it to the Regional tournament. Only the championship team will advance.
Birmingham said the host team is allowed a berth in the tournament and Reinhart will be coaching a team made up of area boys. Tryouts for the team are scheduled to begin Wednesday.
"It should be great experience for all of us," Birmingham said. "We have a lot of support from our city officials and the community. We could not host the tournament without their help. There is a lot of work and planning to be done in preparation for the tournament. There is a criteria for getting the state tournament such as grass infields, and fencing. The District Commission Ed Weaver will be assisting us in making sure we are prepared.. We will only be using one field and it has to be in extremely good shape."
Birmingham said the teams will be staying in Blytheville or Jonesboro but it will still be a boost to Manila. We will have over 100 young ballplayers, coaches and their families visiting in Manila.
"We want them to feel welcome in our town. The Lions Club has volunteered to help and the Manila Business Women have volunteered to prepare and serve the kick-off breakfast," Birmingham said.
There will be a breakfast for the coaches, umpires, state and league commissions on Friday morning July 11 to kick off the tournament. The guests will then go to the park to look over the fields to make sure everything is ready.
Birmingham said the tournament games will begin around 1 p.m. on Friday.
"Right now it looks as if there will be four games on Friday, five games on Saturday, four games on Sunday, two games on Monday and the finals on Tuesday," Birmingham said.
Reinhart said hopefully this will be the first of many state tournaments that could be held in Manila.
"Without the cooperation of city, community and organizations, we would not have had this opportunity to host a state tournament. We appreciate the support and we are looking for all of the help we can get to make the state tournament successful," Birmingham said.