Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, August 01, 2009

Helicopter Helps Premier Tourney Beat the Rain

Jim Ecker        
SPRINGDALE, Ark. -- Don Patty looked up from raking a wet field at the Tyson Sports Complex Saturday afternoon and said with a smile, "We've got a helicopter coming."
 
He wasn't kidding.
 
The Fayetteville Convention & Visitors Bureau found the helicopter and steered it to the Tyson Sports Complex to help dry a pair of fields that were being used for the Premier Baseball Sophomore Championship in the Fayetteville area. The helicopter cost $600 for about an hour's worth of work, but the tourney got a break. The chopper stayed for 70 minutes until all was well.
 
Did it really help?
 
"Oh, yeah," said Patty, the treasurer for Premier Baseball and one of the busy tournament directors.
 
The Bell 47 helicopter, tagged N955B, arrived at the complex at 2:30 p.m., circled twice for safety, then hovered a few feet off the ground near third base on the Blue Field as players watched in fascination and took pictures with cell-phone cameras. A few minutes later, the chopper landed behind the pitcher's mound so the pilot could consult with Patty and members of the Springdale Parks & Recreation Department. They quickly formed a game plan.
 
The pilot would hover over the soggy pitcher's mound for 5 minutes, then hover over the home-plate area while Patty and friends raked the drying mound. Then the chopped would return to the mound, hovering just a few foot above the ground, while they raked around home plate.
 
They did that for a half-hour, then the helicopter shifted to the Green Field for a similar procedure. Fans enjoyed the show, cooled by the whirling blades nearby.
 
Word spread quickly that a helicopter was on the way as fans mingled in the parking lot. After all, you don't see something like this every day.
 
"You say they're bringing a helicopter in here?," a player's father asked before the chopper arrived.
 
Yes, sir, he was told. It's true.
 
"Cool!'' he replied.
 
The helicopter did its job, with two games starting at 3:45 p.m. at Tyson. The sun also popped out of the clouds, which helped as well.
 
Tournament officials had to scramble to keep the tournament moving along. There were heavy rains on Thursday, playing havoc with the schedule, and more rain on Saturday. But the tournament got back on schedule late Saturday night with the quarterfinals, setting the stage for the semifinals and finals on Sunday at the University of Arkansas.
 
Patty appreciated all the help the tournament committee received in running the tournament through all the rain. "Everyone has been really nice," he said. "I want everyone to know that."
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