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SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 2007
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Some of the softball bats used at the Spirit of America tournament this week carry a $200 price tag.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Some of the softball bats used at the Spirit of America tournament this week carry a $200 price tag.

Cost, travel don't deter softball fun

By Josh Cooper
sports@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

At the 2007 Spirit of America Softball Tournament, there were no teams sponsored by Chico's Bail Bonds.

Of course, the fictional Bad News Bears played baseball, not softball. But there were plenty of teams with sponsors willing to shell out enough money so their teams could compete in the tournament.

Some teams came from as far away as Tupelo, Miss., and Memphis. They were mixed in with a hodgepodge of local teams, looking to have some competitive fun.

No matter how far the teams traveled, making it to the tournament was worth both the time and energy.

"It's big, and it's lots of fun," said Steven Cossey of the Mississippi Nighthawks. "It gets you away from home. It's a great time."

Cossey and the rest of the Nighthawks will be staying at the Jameson Inn, cramming about three or four players per room.

According to team manager Robert Mason, each hotel room is worth approximately $70 per night, all coming out of his players' personal bank accounts.

"Several of the guys are just getting out of college," Mason said.

"It is a vacation in a way. Most of these guys are single. We have three who are married."

Interestingly enough, North Mississippi is sponsored by Nighthawk Security. And before the team got a sponsor, it was called the Nighthawks.

That particular company, along with several other sponsors puts up the team's entry fee.

Some have roving sponsors. A local barbecue restaurant is sponsoring the Renegades from Guin.

While the sponsor pays the entry fee, the team not only pays its travel expenses, but some have to purchase their own equipment.

For example, some bats cost upwards of $200.

"Every bat in here was purchased by one of the team members," said Zane Miles from the Renegades.

Many of the local teams in the tournament are given some small advantages.

They can go home between games and sleep in their own beds.

But one of the major reasons for coming to a softball tournament such as the Spirit of America is for the camaraderie.

The players genuinely enjoy being around one another because most of them are friends off the playing field.

"Sometimes it's an advantage if you are away instead of at home," said Bucky Brown, a Decatur native who plays for the Central Park team. "Softball is fun."

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