Tournament a tremendous opportunity

In a little more than 24 hours, an umpire will holler out “Play ball,” putting into motion the Dixie Softball State Tournament at the James L. Morgan Recreation Complex and Optimist Park.

About 60 teams will be competing in the five-day event, which will be officially opened with ceremonies at the complex on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Obviously, this is a tremendous opportunity for Laurinburg and all of Scotland County to put its best foot forward. With 64 youth softball teams converging on the area — a number that includes more than 750 competitors, 130 coaches and innumerable parents, family and friends — area hotels, motels, eateries, stores and more will all feel the positive ripple effects of this tournament.

Sponsored by the Scotland County Parks & Recreation Department, the Dixie Softball State Tournament coming to Laurinburg has been a year-long process spearheaded by Parks & Recreation Director Bryan Graham and Athletics Program Supervisor Edmund Locklear. Their task wasn’t simple, and we give our kudos to them and those who worked with them to bring this incredible event here.

What they and many others are hoping for now is a strong turnout during the actual four days of competition — and we will add one more important hope … that everyone in Scotland County will welcome the players, coaches and followers of all 61 teams coming to Laurinburg from all over the state.

Of course, we also have a trio of softball teams from right here in Scotland County that will be competing in the tournament.

Competing in the 8U Division will be the Dixie Darlings; in the 12U Division will be the Dixie Ponytails; and in the 15U Division will be the Dixie Belles. While we hope local youth softball fans will flock to the complex to watch some good, competitive play, it’s also a good time to cheer on our local girls — all of whom have put in a lot of work to showcase their talents.

For all the local fans, the Scotland County teams will open the tournament Saturday, with the Dixie Ponytails facing Dunn at 11 a.m. on Field 3 at the James L. Morgan Complex; the Dixie Darlings will open play Saturday at 11 a.m. against Cherryville on Field 4 at the Complex; and the Dixie Belles will begin the tournament on Saturday at 4 p.m. on Field 2 at the Complex against Anson County.

We can’t emphasize enough just how fortunate Scotland County is to be hosting the state softball tournament. It’s a true feather in the cap of all those who worked hard to get the event here, and now it’s the rest of the county’s turn to shine — not only to make this experience a positive one for all of the visitors and potentially bring the event back again, but also to continue the financial and goodwill ripple effects long after the tournament closes.

Sure, traffic will be heavy, restaurants will be packed and stores will be teaming with visitors — so the word to remember and practice over the next few weeks should be patience.

We know there will be highs and lows, heartbreak and celebration throughout the competition, but we also know this is an experience the players won’t forget for a very long time. Let’s make sure they also remember what a terrific place Scotland County is.

Good luck to all the teams.