With high hopes of taking home a trophy and title, more than 500 youth invaded Morgan Sports Center Monday afternoon for opening ceremonies of the White Sands USSSA World Series Baseball Tournament.
"There's going to be lots of kids playing baseball the next few weeks," said Jason Roberts, assistant tournament director for the next three weeks.
This week there are 48 teams from all around the southeast in town ranging in ages 9-10 and 13-14. Next week, 48 teams made up of 11- and 12-year-olds will be on the diamond. Week three will see 90 teams take the field, ages 9-14, in open play.
"In about two weeks it's going to be crazy," said Robby Shell, tournament director. "Of course we want all the games to be close, but some are here to play and some are here just to go to the beach."
But on Monday it was all about trading pins and sizing up the other teams as players gathered on the soccer fields at Morganís for opening ceremonies.
When The Log caught up with 6-year-old Jeren Pena he was kneeling on the ground with his mom CeCe and working on arranging his pins on his World Series souvenir towel. The pin he had collected from the Bama Ballers was his favorite.
"To tell the truth I think trading pins is bigger than playing," said his mom CeCe.
Young Jeren plays for the 9-U Bombers of Texas.
For Carter Brasell, 9, of the Navarre Raiders he had six pins and counting.
"The Bayou Bandit is my favorite," Brasell said.
Zach Bragg, of the Z's Diamond Club of Birmingham, had collected 14 pins. Bragg, 10, plays first base and does some pitching for his team.
In addition to trading pins, there were booths set up with souvenirs as well as a pitching booth that would clock the speed of your throw.
Ayden Frankovich, 9, of the Louisiana Padres was trying his arm in the pitching. Although Frankovich plays right field, he was clocked at 35-40 mph on his throw. He said they were undefeated in their league back home and when asked if they were going to win, Frankovich didn't hesitate with a "yeh Ö we're going to win."
Games will be played Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Wednesday will be a short day with games wrapping up around 2 p.m. Games will be played on the fields at Morgan Sports Center, one field behind Destin Elementary School and at the Dalton Threadgill Little League Park.
Cost is $10 a day or $35 for the week.