A year later than expected, the Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series returns to Mobile, and a lot has happened since the last time teams from across the country and beyond the U.S. borders have gathered in the city to decide the baseball championship.
COVID-19 concerns led to the World Series, planned for Hank Aaron Stadium, being canceled last summer. Mobile’s Alabama Rawdogs won the World Series they hosted in 2019, but there was no 2020 tournament, no 2020 champion.
The World Series, which featured one game at The Hank in 2019 and the rest at the University of Mobile’s Jacobs Field, will be played entirely at The Hank this year, July 31 through Aug. 7. The Rawdogs return as the host team along with eight other all-star teams from across the country — New England, Pacific Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, Middle Atlantic, Ohio Valley and Midwest Plains — as well as a team from Curacao.
“It’s definitely a little more stress [heading into this year’s tournament],” said Tony Hendrix, head coach of the Rawdogs, who have won several World Series titles under his leadership. “A World Series is costly and there’s so many things you have to do to put on a good tournament for the out-of-town people coming in. It’s hard to ask businesses that have been shut down or affected by the pandemic [for sponsorships]; there has been an impact on us financially just trying to make it work. But we still have sponsors that were with us back in 2019, pre-COVID, but it has definitely been different.”
Regardless of the circumstances and challenges, Hendrix said he and his team are eager for the arrival of the tournament.
“We’re definitely excited about it,” he said. “We’re tickled to death that the kids are getting to play this year and we’re excited that people from other places are getting to come here — teams from New York and California who last year couldn’t come. We’re definitely happy to have everybody back. We have a lot of friends from all over the United States we’ve coached against for years who are coming, so we’re looking forward to it.”
The Mobile team features several of the top high school and some college players from the area. Hendrix said he has been pleased with the play of the team this summer and he’s looking forward to hopefully successfully defending their World Series crown.
“We’ve just got to be as lucky as we usually are,” he said. “We’re going to be OK. There’s a lot of good high school coaches in Mobile that we get the benefit of [having] their players and putting them into our system. It’s been a good system for years. We feel comfortable that we should be able to cause some teams some problems … We’ve won when I didn’t think we would and lost when I thought we’d win, so I don’t think my opinion is very good on this.”
Teams begin arriving in Mobile next week, with practice sessions scheduled Wednesday and Thursday, July 28 and 29. On July 30 there will be a Fanfest and Home Run Derby beginning at 2 p.m. at The Hank. Admission that day is free. Games begin on Saturday, July 31, with Pacific Southwest facing New England at 10 a.m., Southeast facing Ohio Valley at 1 p.m., Southwest taking on Middle Atlantic at 4 p.m., and Mobile meeting Curacao at 7 p.m. Pacific Northwest plays its first game on Aug. 1 at 10 a.m. against Southwest, and Midwest Plains has its first game at 1 p.m. on Aug. 1 against Ohio Valley.
The tournament features two pools — the National Pool featuring New England, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Southwest and Middle Atlantic, and the American Pool featuring Mobile, Curacao, Ohio Valley, Southeast and Midwest Plains. The top three teams following pool play July 31 through Aug. 4, will advance to single-elimination championship play. The No. 2 and No. 3 seeds from both pods, American vs. National, will play each other at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Aug. 5, with the winners advancing to face the No. 1 seeds, who receive a bye in the first round of championship play, on Aug. 6. The winners from the Aug. 6 games will meet at 1 p.m. on Aug. 7 for the World Series championship.
Tickets for the tournament are currently available on the Mobile Sports and Entertainment Group website (mobileseg.com). Hendrix said 4,500 tickets were sold in 2019 when Mobile played China. He said he hopes Mobile’s game against Curacao on July 31 will outdraw that number.
“The feedback that we’re getting is there are a lot of people excited about traveling and getting out and doing things,” Hendrix said. “Obviously, it’s costly, but we’re just excited that we’re getting to play. Last year around this time everybody was just sitting around because there was nothing to do; we didn’t have the World Series.”
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here