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All-stars from around the state coming to Picayune

Talented softball players from across Mississippi will travel to Picayune for the USSSA All-Star Southern Nationals, which will be held from July 19 to July 21.

The tournament will host about 30 teams, with each team consisting of all-stars from their respective areas.

USSSA Area Director of Central Mississippi Brad Platt said that the idea behind the tournament was to give teams who aren’t traveling to the World Series another option for a post state tournament, all-star experience. It’ll be the first year of the tournament, so Platt hopes with time the tournament will continue to grow and add teams.

“In the future we hope to draw more all-star teams from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida,” Platt said.

“We hope once it’s established we can market it to more teams, and grow it step by step.”

The tournaments were set up as a way for recreational softball to be available to athletes from across the state without the high cost associated with playing travel ball. Owner of Gulf Coast Sports Dennis Owens said the tournaments give players the ability to take part in an event for a fraction of the cost associated with playing in other tournaments.

“We did this because the girls who play rec ball have always gotten the short end of the stick,” Owens said.

“People always say you have to play travel ball in order to make it, but we’ve proven that’s not true.”

Owens said multiple athletes were given athletic scholarships to play in college without ever playing travel ball.

Not having to pay travel ball fees while getting college scholarships means a lot of money is saved for the player and their family.

Additionally, Owens said tournaments are a way to support communities that may be skipped over by other softball organizations.

“When we started these it was to teach kids to give back to their community that gives to them,” Owens said.

Owens said Picayune was the perfect spot for this tournament, not only because of it’s location, but also because of the size of the complex.

“We didn’t want to make this a week-long thing and make families spend a lot of money to travel,” Owens said.

Owens said others have overlooked Picayune’s fields, missing the fact that they are ideal facilities.

“I think it’s the only complex on the Gulf Coast that has that many fields other than Gulfport,” Owens said.

The tournament will also have a beneficial economic impact on the community as well.

Owens said that the nearly 400 athletes and their families will be putting money into Picayune’s economy.

At the end of the day, Owens really hopes the games will serve as learning opportunities for the players, not only on the field but off as well.

“In life you have to be a part of a team, and being out there shows them what really is going on in the world,” Owens said.

“Putting them in this type of environment allows them to open up and communicate with people.”