By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- The excitement has been building in Winchester since last year's announcement that the city will once again host the Cal Ripken 10-Year-Old World Series.
The wait is almost over for the return of the World Series, first hosted by Winchester in 2011. From Aug. 9-16, teams from across the country will converge on Yost Field at Winchester's Jim Barnett Park to play for the national championship.
As the host team, Winchester will once more be among that 10-team field. The last time that happened, in 2011, Winchester nearly won the championship as manager Bob Brown led the team to an undefeated record in pool play, then a semifinal victory before ultimately falling just short in a championship-game loss to Southeastern Lexington, Kentucky.
The tournament promises to be a major draw for the city, according to host President Thomas Jones.
"We estimate in all having 15,000 to 20,000 fans here throughout the tournament, with most of them being local," Jones said. "The Winchester team did so well in 2011, we had almost 2,000 per game every time they played."
That successful effort in the city's first chance to host a Cal Ripken World Series is what prompted Babe Ruth League Inc., to ask Winchester to host the event again.
"We thought the tournament went very well in 2011, as did Babe Ruth baseball," Jones said. "They actually approached us about hosting the 2014 tournament.
"What we're hoping is that every three years, it comes back to Winchester."
The Winchester Parks and Recreation Department will run the tournament, and Jones said the experience of having already pulled off a World Series has helped preparations go even smoother this time around.
"This time it's a little bit easier than the first time," Jones said. "We'd never done it before when we hosted in 2011."
Joining Winchester and the Virginia state champion will be eight regional winners from a nationwide pool of eligible teams. Each team consists of 12 to 13 players, plus coaches. Ensuring adequate accommodations and transportation for such an influx of visitors -- which includes numerous family members as well -- remains the biggest challenge facing tournament organizers, Jones said.
The tournament is also a prime opportunity for the town to showcase its attractions to a new group of visitors.
"The amount of out-of-town people coming to Winchester for the tournament is significant, and on average they're staying 10 days here," Jones said. "They seem to enjoy the city, and we've had many people who came to Winchester for the tournament come back to visit again."
Local businesses have stepped to the plate to provide strong sponsorship support, but Jones said the Winchester Parks and Recreation Department is still actively seeking sponsors as well as volunteers for the tournament. The mid-summer event provides a solid boost to Winchester's economy.
"In 2011, we estimated the tournament brought in $775,000 to the local community through hotels, restaurants and spending at local stores," Jones said. "We're expecting and hoping for the same in 2014."
Longtime youth baseball coach Bob Brown will reprise his role of managing the Winchester team, and Yost Field will once more serve as the playing field.
One change from the 2011 edition will come right at the start. This year, the pre-tournament banquet and opening ceremonies will be held on different days. The banquet is set to run from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 8 in the Jim Barnett Park Gymnasium, with opening ceremonies slated for Saturday, Aug. 9 at 11 a.m. on Yost Field. Pool play will begin that same day at 1:30 p.m. The championship is slated for 1 p.m. on Aug. 16.