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South Hill readies Parker Park for O-Zone State Tournament, featuring a more wide-open brand of Dixi / July 17, 2013
Baseball tournaments will highlight the local area this weekend when the eighth annual O-Zone State Tournament comes to Parker Park in South Hill.

Tournament play will begin on Friday at 2 p.m. and finish up Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, depending on team standings. Eight teams will compete in the tournament.

Scheduled to play are South Hill, South Boston America, Galax, Vinton, Salem America, Christiansburg, Rustburg and Bedford Eastern.

Eddie Smiley, President of South Hill Dixie Youth Baseball, said the organization is looking forward to hosting the town’s first O-Zone state play.

“This will be our first time hosting Ozone and we are excited,” said Smiley. “Plus this is the first year that South Hill Dixie Youth has competed in O-Zone.”

Much like the Majors division in Dixie Youth, Ozone is just another division of the league. But O-Zone brings with it some stark differences that the South Hill organization wanted to make available to its ball players.

“O-Zone is played more like Major League Baseball,” Smiley said. The leads players take off the bases, the steals — the bases are further apart and the mound is further back. It just really adds to the game.”

In making the decision to offer the O-Zone division to it players, Smiley said board members, team managers and coaches believed the division would better prepare players who were looking to play middle school ball and travel ball.

“We were a little worried about the kids like how they would adapt and so on, because this is all about the kids,” said Smiley. “But the kids have loved it. It makes things a little more exciting and they like that.”

Apart from tournament play, Smiley said the organization is also happy to be welcoming so many people to town. He feels that South Hill is a great place to host tournaments and believes the town and its residents really do support Dixie Youth Baseball.

“We have eight teams playing in the tournament and between the players and coaches that’s already right at 120 kids and coaches,” Smiley stated. “We expect the tournament will draw some large numbers.

“We all our local fans will come and support us,” he continued. “The teams have been scrimmaging and I can tell you, these guys can play.

“I think people are really going to like what they see. This is some good baseball.”

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