LUMBERTON — Officials from the Lumberton Youth Baseball Association traveled to Laurel, Mississippi this past weekend, stepping up to the plate at the National Dixie Youth board meeting in an attempt to bring the 2018 Dixie Youth World Series to Lumberton.
Bruce Mullis, treasurer for the LYBA, couldn’t have been happier with the result.
“We went down there looking for a home run and came back with a grand slam,” said Mullis, who was joined on the roughly 12-hour drive by Tim Locklear, Roy West and Adrian Lowery.
In addition to the Coach-Pitch World Series, which was Lumberton’s initial bid, the city will also host the Minor, Major and O-Zone events in 2018. It became official Monday morning.
“We couldn’t pass it up,” Mullis said of adding the other three leagues. “We had to be proactive and make a good management decision. We saw the opportunity to reach out and snatch it and we have the confidence in our state that we can make it happen.”
It was the culmination of a journey that began in 2005, when talks to begin constructing Northeast Park started.
“We said the whole time, our goal and dream was to bring a World Series to Lumberton,” Mullis said. “We had everything but the venue. If you build it they will come. We’ve built it, advocated for it and we have a great relationship with Dixie Youth Baseball. Because of that it’s brought us to the national level with them.”
Formed in 1955, Dixie Youth Baseball has sent its World Series to North Carolina three times. Lumberton will become the fourth host city in the Tar Heel state. In 1979, Leland hosted the first Dixie Youth World Series in North Carolina, followed by Cumberland County in 1985 and Carthage in 2011.
Locklear, president of the LYBA, said the efforts of past leaders within the association were vital over the years in making this opportunity a reality.
“This didn’t just happen overnight,” Locklear said. “The LYBA was started about 20 years ago. Roy West did a great job as previous president to build that great relationship with Dixie Youth.
“It’s a great opportunity for Lumberton and for the community. I’m just elated that LYBA has a chance to showcase it.”
Sixty teams, representing 11 states, will compete at Northeast Park’s Pennington Athletic Complex for two weeks of competition in 2018. The hope is to the expand the complex from four fields to six in preparation for the events.
“That will allow us to have a central location,” Mullis said.
The fields were used for the first time last summer for a Dixie Youth Softball tournament. The complex continued to garner attention from the state this summer, hosting a pair of Dixie Youth Baseball State Championship events.
“North Carolina Dixie Youth Baseball has committed to help us in any way possible,” Mullis said. “The LYBA people can’t do this alone. This will require our community to step up. Hopefully, we can get the full help of the county.”
For Locklear, the event offers the chance “to put Lumberton on the map.”
“It’s going to be great for Lumberton and our community,” Locklear said. “For us to bring it back home to share that with the community, I think we can put on a great show for Dixie Youth.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.