GLADSTONE - Following a 16-year absence, the state Little League Major (age 11-12) softball tournament will return to Delta County next week.
Teams from throughout Michigan will arrive July 12, with the five-day event starting with two games July 13 at 10 a.m. on Howes Family and Cannon Fields at the Gladstone Sports Park.
"Whenever you get the opportunity to host these big tournaments, it is so crucial to have the support from the many businesses in the Gladstone and Escanaba area along with the Delta County Chamber of Commmerce," said longtime District 10 administrator Don Howes of Gladstone. "It will be a plus in many ways for our community."
Opening ceremonies are July 13 at 12:30 p.m. on Howes Field. All 14 teams in full uniform and the 12-person umpire crew will participate, with the Gladstone American Legion Post 71 presenting the colors prior to the national anthem.
The local District 10 champion opens July 13 at 1:15 p.m., facing the District 9 winner from the Grand Rapids area. A state champion is expected to be crowned July 17.
Activities begin July 12 with a state tournament picnic for players, coaches and families from all the teams from 6-8 p.m. at Gladstone High School. A meeting for all coaches and managers will follow.
"This year's tournament is just the beginning of what is to come next year," said Howes.
"Delta County will host one of the biggest (eight-day, 16-team) softball tournaments that Little League has ever put on north of the Mackinac Bridge. When this came up at the spring meeting, District 10 jumped at the idea that this would be great for our economy in many ways."
District 10 and the Escanaba Little League will host the 2013 state Minor girls (age 9-10) tourney, booking nearly 200 motel rooms a year in advance.
Also, Manistique will host a state softball tournament for the first time next year as the senior girls' (age 13-15) event comes north.