The call was transferred to the conference room of the Pine Bluff Convention Center just after noon Thursday with city and county officials and youth baseball supporters in attendance. Just minutes into the call, Babe Ruth League Inc. vice president and commissioner Robert Faherty Jr. told the small crowd what they expected to hear: The 2015 Babe Ruth 14-year-old tournament will be held at Taylor Field in Pine Bluff.
Official dates have not yet been set, but Faherty said it is typically held in August, two weeks before Labor Day.
“We are very excited to be coming back to Pine Bluff, to Taylor Field, to the community that has been a big part of our history,” Faherty said. “I have no doubt this will be a great event again for the kids we serve, the players who come in from all over the country and for the community to rally around.”
The tournament will include 12 teams, three of which will represent Pine Bluff’s Northern and Seabrook leagues and the White Hall league. The other teams will qualify through state and regional tournaments across the country.
This will mark the sixth time Taylor Field has hosted a Babe Ruth World Series for baseball, and it will coincide with the field’s 75th anniversary. The facility hosted the 15-year-old tournament in 1972, 1975, 1994, 1998 and 2003.
Taylor Field also was the site for the 2000 Babe Ruth 12-under softball World Series.
“History repeats itself because every time the World Series has been here, people have rallied and supported it,” Jefferson County Judge Dutch King said, addressing Faherty. “This is a great function for our whole community, and we thank you for allowing us to host this.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and White Hall Mayor Noel Foster also expressed their appreciation for the tournament returning to the area.
Faherty said Pine Bluff’s history with Babe Ruth Baseball was a big factor in selecting the area for the tournament.
“It’s 100 percent history,” Faherty said. “It’s the community and people we know. But the history is right there in the No. 1 cheerleader for the Pine Bluff community and Taylor Field, and that’s Jim Hill.”
Hill, Taylor Field’s executive director and longtime youth baseball supporter in Pine Bluff, also serves on Babe Ruth League’s board of directors. Faherty said Hill and late Babe Ruth advisory board member Eddie Bryan convinced Babe Ruth League over the years that citizens of Pine Bluff “would come out in droves to support this event, and they weren’t wrong.”
“Anytime Babe Ruth goes into a community and asks them to fix up the field and put on a great show, we’re always disappointed when we don’t come back in a few years,” Faherty said. “Typically we may come back in three or four years or five years, and it’s been too long. The opportunity presented itself. It’s the right time, the right year.”
Pine Bluff Convention Center executive director Bob Purvis sees the tournament as an economic boon for Pine Bluff and White Hall.
“I’ve never seen a baseball tournament where there weren’t twice as many people come with each team as there are players, and depending how far they come, there could be 10 times as many people come,” Purvis said. “So, you’re talking about hundreds of people come for 10 days. This is not a one-day deal.
“… On a 10-day period, you can figure on every one of the people coming from out of town spending at least $100 a day per person. That adds up real quick when you think about hotel and meals. If you had 500 people, that means they’re going to spend $50,000 a day. That’s the kind of impact we’re looking at for Jefferson County, for Pine Bluff, for White Hall and the state of Arkansas.”
Hill hopes the latest news will be an incentive for local youths currently not playing baseball to take up the sport.
“We need to reinvent our (old) slogan that ‘Pine Bluff Loves People,’” Hill said. “We need to get the kids going and let people wherever they are know what we have going on here.”