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Thursday, December 18, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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The Frasch Park fields will be home to the 2014 Fast Pitch 56 softball tournament. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

The Frasch Park fields will be home to the 2014 Fast Pitch 56 softball tournament. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Time to dust off welcome mat

Last Modified: Thursday, May 01, 2014 11:44 AM

Tomorrow marks the opening of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Fastpitch Top 56 State Softball Championship Tournament in Sulphur.

In less than a 36-hour span, 49 games will be contested and by late Saturday evening, seven state champions will be crowned, with triumph intertwined with tragedy and enough effort and emotion to fill an entire month, let alone two days.

Sulphur has been the home to the Top 56 Tournament since 2001, and while other cities have tried to win the bid to host the tournament, Sulphur’s peerless Frasch Park facilities, cooperative spirit and unique hospitality has beaten back all challengers. Sulphur and the Top 56 have become nearly as synonymous as The Masters and Augusta, Ga., all because of the great atmosphere that is provided players, coaches and fans.

This field for this year’s tournament is an anomaly because Class 2A DeQuincy will be the highest-classification team representing Southwest Louisiana, which boasts only four other teams; Hackberry, Starks, Anacoco and Fairview. That may mean the tournament’s attendance record of about 21,000 is safe. On the flip side, it could also result in more teams and fans staying overnight in hotels and more area restaurants filled.

Two weeks from today, Sulphur’s McMurry Park will host three days worth of the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games in all seven classes of the Boys Baseball State Tournament.

After several cities hosted the state championship tournaments in the past few years, the LHSAA has opted to give the girls’ tournament format a try for the boys.

The Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, which has done yeoman’s work in luring these tournaments to Sulphur, is encouraging businesses to display ‘‘Welcome LHSAA Fast Pitch 56 Tournament’’ messages on their marquees or signs this weekend.

We should all be mindful to make every effort to welcome the players, coaches, administrators and fans to our corner of the state, particularly in light of National Tourism Week beginning on Saturday.

These two tournaments, coupled with the annual Contraband Days festival, which begins its 11-day run today, are golden opportunities for Southwest Louisiana businesses and residents to showcase the best we have to offer.

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