Lawrence this week welcomes 1,200 softball enthusiasts to the USSSA Fast Pitch 12 and Under World Series.
The 44 teams competing come from Illinois, Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. The double-elimination tournament officially starts today Thursday and runs through the weekend at the Youth Sports Complex.
The competition is some of the best in the country. But the No. 1 foe appears to be the weather, which is expected to be hot with highs in the high 90s with a slight chance of rain through Sunday.
“Players should drink a bottle of water before they go out and try to drink at least one cup every hour,” Lawrence Athletic Club trainer Jonathan Blake said. “They should also go out on the field at least 10 minutes before the game starts to get acclimated to the heat.”
Parents know this too well, and are trying to ensure their players are adequately hydrated during the games.
“We brought our own water, coolers and sports drinks to keep the girls hydrated,” said parent Brian Bates of Lincoln, Neb. “Then we found out they had an outlet at the ballfields and used some extension cords to put a fan in the dugout.”
The city is pitching in to help the players and fans brave the heat.
“There’s water stations and tents at the YSC, but there’s also a luau at the Lawrence Aquatic Center Wednesday night to give the teams a chance to relax away from the sun,” said Bob Sanner, the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau director of conventions and sports.
Sanner added the tournament gives hotel owners, shops and restaurants extra business and a chance to show off the “best of what Lawrence has to offer.”
“The softball groups that come in during the week account for half of the rooms which is pretty good for because we’re not quite as full during the week,” said Will Richardson, assistant general manager for the Holiday Inn Express & Suites said. “It’s nice for them to have a full week to explore Lawrence.”
Restaurants also welcome the players and their families.
“It’s always nice to have 300 people come to the restaurant,” said Jeni Hagen, Applebee’s manager. “We covered the player’s tabs, and wished them the best of luck.”