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City braces for impending Dixie Debs/Belles state tourney

The Camellia City will host its first state-level rec league competition in six years this weekend as the Dixie Belles and Dixie Debs duke it out for the state title.

Greg Fuller, director of Greenville Parks and Recreation, said that this year’s event should be a treat for all involved, even if this weekend’s tournament won’t quite match the size of the 2010 Dixie Youth state tournament.

“[The Dixie Youth state tournament] was good; it brought a lot of people in,” Fuller said.

“We won’t have as many teams has we had then—that was a 12-team tournament, and these two combined are going to be about nine or 10-team deal.  There aren’t a lot of Debs left around the state, and there are only two teams left in it this year.  Originally, it was set for three, but they cut it back to two.  So it’ll be a best two-out-of-three series between us and Smiths Station.”

Ed Sims, Greenville city councilman of District 2 and liason to the Greenville Parks and Recreation Department, said that the circumstances surrounding the Debs’ upcoming state title series add even more intrigue to an already exciting faceoff.

“We combined the Belles and the Debs, because we didn’t have enough girls to play two leagues,” Sims said. “The Belles are 13-15, and the Debs are 16-18, and we had to combine them all to make three teams.  Then we split them up into two all-star teams, so they haven’t played.

“They started practicing last Friday, I think, because we didn’t announce them until last Thursday.  I saw them play a little bit together, but I haven’t seen them play as two separate teams.  So they’re being thrown right into the fire.”

The Belles, by comparison, will have a seven-team bracket consisting of Greenville, Troy, Underwood, Taylor-Rehobeth, Dothan, Sheffield and Eufaula.

Despite the larger pool of teams, Fuller is confident that neither rain nor shine will impede the flow of this weekend’s events.

“As long as we don’t get rain all day, our crew does a pretty good job of fighting our way through,” Fuller said.

“Last year, we hosted 26 teams in the district, and we never missed a day even with a few days of rain.  It’s just one of those things where we’ll just have to wait and see and hope for the best.”

“The good thing about it is that we’ll do it in two sessions,” Sims added. “For instance, if they play that morning, they won’t play again until that night.  They won’t play more than two games in a day, and they won’t play back-to-back.

“We’ll have a morning session, which will start at 9 a.m., and we’ll have two games going on at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m..  Then we’ll break and play two games at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.  So they will be able to go back home or to the hotel, get out of the heat, take a shower and cool off.”

Despite the smaller pool of traveling competitors, the weekend tournament is sure to bolster Greenville’s economy over the three-day period.

“You’ve got people staying in hotels here, eating in restaurants and buying gas, so any extra people you bring in always helps, and that’s why we take on something like this,” Fuller said.

“It’s not because we’re going to make any money off of it, but to try to spread some money around town.  You always hope that those teams will be here at least two or three days, and that they’ll enjoy themselves and leave a little money behind, as well.”

Fuller, Sims and several others are still making last-minute preparations before the opening ceremony this Friday, but both are certain that all of their hard work will culminate in a memorable experience this weekend.

“It’s just a lot of teamwork among the departments, including Jennifer Stringer, the city’s horticulturist, and her crew, and Milton Luckie and his crew, Jimmy Cole and others,” Fuller said.  “We’re always appreciative of the help that we get from them, especially Jennifer—she does quite a bit to help the parks look good.  Our guys handle what goes on inside the fence, and what Jennifer does outside the fence is what impacts the spectators.  They’ve been hard at it for two weeks now, and it’s all come together pretty well.”

“It’s been a lot of work, but I think once we get started Saturday morning, it’ll all be worth it,” Sims said.

“We can all relax and watch a little softball.”