It’s a done deal.
A local committee for the 2015 Babe Ruth 14-year-old World Series headed by Jim Hill signed a contract with Babe Ruth League Inc. on Tuesday that will bring the national tournament to Pine Bluff. This will mark the sixth time a Babe Ruth Baseball World Series has been played in the city and first time since 2003.
“We’re so excited to be back in Pine Bluff,” Babe Ruth League vice president and commissioner Robert Faherty Jr. said before a news conference at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. “It’s a big part of our history. Obviously with Taylor Field and the history of baseball and from the coaches and players to a professional player from your own backyard (Torii Hunter), baseball’s important here. For us to come back and put that spotlight on baseball here, that’s what we’re hoping to do. We want to have a lot of kids to have that opportunity.”
The tournament, which is scheduled for Aug. 15-22, 2015 — “give or take a day,” Faherty said — will come on the 75th anniversary of its main site, Taylor Field. Eddie Bryan Field at Seabrook Family Christian Center will hold some games within the tournament as well.
Pine Bluff was awarded the tournament during a teleconference in December.
Hill, Taylor Field’s executive director, heads the committee that works with Babe Ruth League to bring the tournament to Pine Bluff and raises funds toward the guarantee for the event. The first of four equal payments of the $45,000 guarantee was made Tuesday, and the total fee insures that the 12 teams — one each from the Northern, Seabrook and White Hall leagues, the North Arkansas and South Arkansas champions and other regional champions from across the nation will arrive and be accommodated here.
“It’s the perfect blend of private, corporate and city support,” said Faherty, who added that Babe Ruth League will spend $75,000 in the community on baseball operations and travel.
But every dollar spent at Taylor and Eddie Bryan fields will remain in Pine Bluff, Faherty said.
While Babe Ruth League no longer has a family host program to house players during the tournament, a family ambassador initiative is created to help acclimate teams to the area.
Taylor Field has hosted 15-year-old World Series in 1972, 1975, 1994 and 1998, as well as the 13-year-old World Series in 2003 and the 12-under Softball World Series in 2000. A local team reached the finals of the 1994 tournament.
Hill, a longtime coach and umpire in Pine Bluff’s youth leagues, said it’s more fun to gear up for a Babe Ruth World Series, but also more work as he gets older.
“We want to try it one more time, and hopefully get the kids interested back in the program,” Hill said. “If this doesn’t give them a shot in the arm, I don’t know how much more we can do.”