Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, July 09, 2009

Watching the WWBA: You've got to love it

Jim Ecker        
MARIETTA, Ga. -- If you've ever run a baseball tournament with 16 teams, you know what a logistical nightmare it can be with fields, umpires, teams, rosters, concessions, gatekeepers, cleanup crews and unruly weather. Now imagine trying it with 192 teams.

That's how many teams are currently playing in the World Wood Bat Association 17U National Championships in Georgia, a massive event that began on Tuesday and will continue through Monday with the fianls. This comes on the heels of the 192 teams that entered the 18U National Championships here from June 30 through July 6, and it precedes the 174 clubs that are expected for the 16U tournament on July 14-20.

All told, Perfect Game USA anticipated having nearly 700 teams and approximately 10,000 players in the five age groups in the WWBA this year over a busy six-week period from June 18 through July 26, with competition in 14U, 15U, 16U, 17U and 18U.

It's mind-boggling.

The 17U tournament is being played at 25 fields in Georgia, with locations in Marietta, Alpharetta, Roswell, Smyrna, Canton, Woodstock, Kennesaw, Austell and Atlanta. The hub is the impressive East Cobb Baseball Complex in Marietta, with its three regulation diamonds that feature 15 games per day. There are a total of eight fields at the East Cobb Complex, including five fields for younger players, making East Cobb the envy of many.

It's hard to know exactly how many college coaches and pro scouts are attending the 17U tournament this week, because not everybody signs in, but there probably are more than 500 in attendance. Most of the top college programs in the country have people here, but so do a whole bunch of D-2, D-3, NAIA and junior college teams. Everybody is looking for players, and there are lots of good ones here -- along with many great ones. The Savannah College of Art and Design is here, along with Ivy League schools, the Air Force Academy and Army.

They could play a mini-Aflac All-American game in Georgia this week with all the Aflac stars in the tournament, but they aren't the only superior players. There are players from 37 states in the tournament, including an entire team from Hawaii, along with players from Canada, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

Last week at the 18U tournament, a pitcher named Dalton Acord had an impressive outing and was immediately signed to a pro contract by the Atlanta Braves. He's now practicing with the Braves' Rookie League team in the Gulf Coast League and expects to make his pro debut next week. One day, he's playing in an amateur 18U tournament. The next day, he's a professional baseball player.

If you're wondering about the logistics of a 192-team tournament, here's how it works: There are 32 pools with six teams apiece, and everybody plays five pool games with one game apiece on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The 32 pool champs will advance to the championship round on Saturday night, and there will be 16 teams in the picture when everyone wakes up Sunday. They'll play the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals on Sunday, followed by the semifinals and finals on Monday. The two teams that reach the championship game on Monday will have played 10 games in seven days, which puts a premium on a deep and talented pitching staff.

It's a lot of baseball, but it's more than that. The East Cobb Complex features an array of vendors with bats, caps, gloves, jerseys, T-shirts and many other baseball products for sale. There was even a jewelry stand today, featuring objects with a baseball theme.

You've got to love it.
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