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A batter with Bombs Away (southern Illinois) looks at a pitch during Sunday’s game against Full Count Falcons (Martin, Tennessee) at Southaven’s Snowden Grove Park. The weekend tournament was the first competitive youth baseball event at the facility since the onset of COVID-19.

The Boys (and Girls) of Summer have come back to Southaven and everybody is happy baseball and softball in DeSoto County have returned.

The first competitive youth tournaments held at the city’s Snowden Grove Park since the coronavirus pandemic took place this past weekend. Softball was also played at the city’s Greenbrook Park Softball Complex.

Snowden Grove hosted the USSSA School's Been Out Celebration, which attracted more than 100 teams from eight different states.

“It was so uplifting to so many people in Southaven to have competitive baseball and softball back!” said Mayor Darren Musselwhite. “We’ve had so many positive responses from citizens and visitors alike.”

The city took extra precautions in preparation for last weekend’s tournaments. All events from March-May were canceled to be extra cautious.

Once the decision was made that games could return, specific protocols were put in place ahead of time to guide teams, coaches, and fans about fighting the virus and staying safe.

“We established a detailed “Return to Play” protocol that was heavily communicated to all participants and strictly enforced,” Musselwhite said. “We closed bleachers and stadium seating, required social distancing with lawn chairs and family-only tents; no handshakes, but hat-tipping instead; and no sunflower seeds, which promote frequent spitting.”

Musselwhite said there was a limit on the number of players allowed in a dugout and hand sanitizers were required for all dugouts. Concessions were available but servers were required to wear face masks. Parents were to be the ultimate decision-maker about their child’s safety as a player.

Youth baseball tournaments not only are big for the teams and fans, but they are also big for businesses to Southaven, Mississippi’s third-largest city, and DeSoto County. Musselwhite estimated the economic impact from last weekend alone in dollars to equal seven figures.

“The tournaments at Snowden Grove and Greenbrook were major successes and estimated to have a $1.3 million impact on our city in just three days,” the mayor said. “We will continue to be a leader and model for others to follow in the safe re-opening of youth sporting events in America.”

In years with a full schedule of tournaments, including the Dizzy Dean World Series, which has been canceled for this year, Musselwhite estimated the annual economic impact would reach $25 million.

“Many of our businesses rely on our tournaments and it was the time that they got a chance to prosper again,” the mayor said.