Little league, big money: Kernersville hosts regional baseball tournament

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KERNERSVILLE, N.C. -- Eight teams will be vying for regional supremacy during the 2017 Intermediate Baseball Division Southeastern Region Tournament, and for the first time, Kernersville Little League is the host. While it may be little league, this means big money.

“It’s a big deal,” said Shawn Cofer, Kernersville Little League president. “It’s a lot of work but it’s a big deal.”

Among the teams is the joint Kernersville/Walkertown team, which won their state title after battling not only tough opposition but weather delays.

“I hope that generates a lot more excitement and gets more people out here to the ballpark,” Cofer said.

There are seven other teams competing in the tournament, including Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Games began at 9 a.m. Friday, with four games to be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The championship games are slated for Monday.

“These kids, they have their heart in this game,” said Sean Harrell, whose son plays on the Alabama team.

“We’re staying in Greensboro,” said Brian Brown, whose son plays for the Georgia team.

“The parents are over at the Spring Hill, we’re at the Quality Inn, we’re kinda scattered all around town,” said Mike Engelberg, manager of the team from Alexandria, Virginia.

In addition to the hotel rooms come the local restaurants who will receive a boost, as well as other local venues where the teams will spend their time between games.

“Tonight we’re gonna go to the Winston-Salem Dash game, so we’ll have a fun night together,” Engelberg added.

When all is said and done, the families will end up spending hundreds to thousands of dollars in the Triad over the course of the weekend.

“I was just checking my bank account about an hour ago,” Harrell said. “Put simply, it’s costing us to be here this weekend.”

The Kernersville Chamber of Commerce estimates as many as 700 additional people will be coming into their town as a result of the tournament.

“On our tournament weekends, it gets pretty crazy in here,” said Kim Smith, Kernersville Little League concessions director.

On top of the economic impact, there are underlying stories within the tournament which should provide incentives for people to attend. In addition to the Kernersville/Walkertown team’s success, the aforementioned Alexandria team’s home field was the site of the Republican Congressional Baseball Team shooting, where House majority whip Steve Scalise was among those shot in June.

“Most of our team lives within a few blocks of that park,” Engelberg said. “When something like that happens right on your field, it’s a little bit surreal.”

But, Engelberg added that baseball has helped not only his team, but the surrounding community recover.

“OK, it’s back to normal, we’re back on the field, the FBI, and all those people are gone now and let’s get back to baseball,” he said.

The 2017 Intermediate Baseball Division Southeastern Region Tournament Championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.