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Wilson to host N.C. American Legion State Tourney in 2013

July 7, 2012
North Carolina






WILSON - It’s been 70 years since Wilson was the site of an American Legion baseball state championship series but next summer, the town will have its chance again.

Wilson American Robert B. Anderson Post 13 Athletic Director Bob Walston announced this week that the North Carolina American Legion state championship tournament will be held in Fleming Stadium from July 21-27, 2013.

Just like in 1942, when Wilson lost the state finals series in five games to Shelby, Wilson will have a chance to play for the championship. As the host team, Post 13 will be part of the eight-team field, which includes the top two teams from Areas II, III and IV as well as the Area I champion. The host area will send only its champion.

Post 13 will partner with the Wilson Tobs summer collegiate baseball team in putting on the event.

“It’s a lot of work,” Walston said. “If you don’t have some help, it’s hard to put it on. It takes a lot of money and a lot of work.”

The Tobs, Walston said, will handle the legwork of marketing and advertising, a big chore since the host group must raise in the neighborhood of $30,000.

Most of that goes to paying for hotel rooms for the seven teams who will travel to Wilson for the tournament as well as state Legion officials. The host team also has to pay the umpires and produce an event publication, for which ad sales are critical.

That’s where the Tobs, with an existing sales force, come in.

“We’ll be able to come up with, what we feel like, is an aggressive marketing campaign since we have 12 months to prepare for it,” said Tobs President Greg Suire.

Suire, along with Tobs Chief Financial Officer Richard Holland, also own the Thomasville Hi-Toms of the Coastal Plain League. They were part of the host group of the 2006 American Legion state tournament in High Point.

“We’re thrilled,” Suire said. “That’s been one of our missions since we came here — to host this type of event and create synergy between the Legion program and the Tobs.”

Suire noted that two current Tobs — Zach Houchins and Zack Lee — are alumni of the Post 13 program.

The double-elimination tournament will be contested entirely in Fleming with four games each of the first two days. That means the Tobs will be on the road for a week, a small sacrifice, Suire said.

“It’s worth it. Everybody knows it’s a team effort,” he pointed out.

The North Carolina American Legion baseball program shifted its championship format to a tournament in 2000. Granite Falls was the first host and the others have been Garner (twice), Salisbury, Fayetteville, Shelby, Cherryville, High Point, Gastonia, Greenville, Asheboro and Morehead City, which hosted last year. Lenoir is this season’s host city. Each area has the chance to host every four years and Walston said he put in a bid in 2009, but it went to Greenville.

“Greenville got the tournament because they had the new ECU stadium (Clark-LeClair Stadium) to use as a drawing card,” he noted.

This time, Wilson got the nod over Garner.

IDEAL HOST SITE

In putting together his proposal, Walston, who was inducted into the N.C. American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame last year, said he highlighted several aspects of Wilson as an ideal host site, including location, facilities, accommodation availability and the fact that Little League, Babe Ruth and N.C. Youth Soccer events have been held here in recent years.

“My proposal stated that Wilson has more than ample accommodations with over 1,400 rooms here; plenty of food choices of all kinds; easy access, obviously, is a big plus,” he said. “I wasn’t there when they made a decision but those were all items we presented to them when I put the proposal in writing.”

Having Fleming, which also houses the N.C. Baseball Museum, as a championship tournament site was obviously very appealing.

“We’ve been trying to get this before. We’ve talked about it in past years and put in a bid,” said Post 13 head coach Rusty Dail. “We’d love to host it, one reason because we’ve got a great facility. It would be good for our town and it would be good for our program.”

AUTOMATIC BERTH

Fleming was the site of the final three games of the 1942 best-of-five championship series, the last of which Wilson lost 3-2 as it fell short in a ninth-inning comeback. The previous season, Wilson advanced to the state semifinals but lost to Gastonia. The city has not had a team in the state finals since 1942, a seven-decade streak that will end next July.

“That’s one way to get there!” cracked Dail.

Of course, Post 13, which begins the Area I Eastern Division playoffs next week, still has a chance to get into the 2012 state tournament.

However, both he and Walston both said they’d like Post 13 to win its way there next summer. But knowing they’ve already got a spot among the final eight will create a different perspective next summer, Dail said.

“It’ll be a little bit different approach and try to be ready by that time,” he explained. “It’s going to take a whole lot more pitching to get through the season. Hopefully we can kind of pace ourselves because it’s going to be a whole lot longer season.”

But one with a happy ending as Wilson will join the handful of other communities around the state to host the American Legion baseball state tourney.

“Wilson’s known as a baseball community to a lot of people with the museum here, the baseball stadium, (the Babe Ruth World Series) tournament around here,” Dail said. “So it’s kind of like a ball mecca.”

And seven American Legion teams and their fans will be making their pilgrimmage here next summer.


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