The Georgia Military Softball Championships are right around the corner. The event is set for June 17-19 and will be held at Mount Tabor Park.
The championship is being hosted by 29 Promotions this year, an offshoot of Softball World magazine founded and run by Bill Slaughter, a Hiram resident who was an avid player of softball himself. Dallas-Hiram Patch sat with him to talk about the upcoming festivities.
"Twenty-nine is actually my softball number," Slaughter said with a chuckle while describing his company. He says his company was first contacted about Georgia military softball back in 2009.
"I was approached by the Military Softball Conference to begin a publication of their own," he says. "We currently do a quarterly magazine for the military."
Slaughter says that part of his desire to host the championship comes from the inspiration that troops and vets who play softball give him.
"I'm an ex-Navy guy myself," he says. "I became just so amazed at these men and women who are active duty or reservists or retired."
He says that the wanted to bring the championship to Dallas because he wanted to spread the event to a non-militarized area. He wanted to help the event gain more recognition.
"I thought it would create two opportunities," he says. "One, for the county to show how much they love and appreciate what the military does for us, and two, for these men and women, or these heroes, to get the appreciation they deserve."
The championship will allow anyone who has served, past and present, to participate in the games. According to Slaughter, the event will be bigger this year than it has been in a while.
"So far, leading up, it's been exactly how I envisioned," he says. "The outpouring of support we've got from the county government and local business leaders ... I think it's just going to be an incredible event."
What of participation, though? How many people will be participating?
"It grows every day," says Slaughter. "When you go along with the teams we have coming from Texas, New Orleans, Delaware, the Carolinas, we're going to be well over 40 teams by now."
Slaughter says the event likely will draw more than 50 teams by the time registration has ended. According to his fiscal report on the event, each team will bring in an average of 25 people between players, coaches, sponsors and family, so when added up, the county should expect to see about 1,250 people at Mount Tabor Park that weekend.
On top of everything, Slaughter says that the softball games will not be the only event held during the championship.
"We have a big home run derby," he says. "We're having two fields going at the same time, one will be military, the other one is civilian."
He adds that winners will get a brand new bat. He also mentioned that the winners of the military and civilian derbies would come back and face off against each other.
Slaughter says that all of this is to encourage more local interaction with the military.
There's a lot going on that weekend. So what does all of this cost the local taxpayer, one may ask?
"Zero," Slaughter says. "We're doing everything privately. With the exception of field usage, there will be no taxpayer expenditure."
And according to Slaughter's fiscal report, a local business owner might see quite a bit of gain from such an event. Based on a formula cited in the report, the tournament and surrounding festivities could easily generate up to $1 million for local businesses in both Hiram and Dallas.
Slaughter expects to see a large business gain in Hiram from the fact that the Sleep Inn in Hiram is the host hotel for the event. He expects to see large gain in the area because of restaurant spending. "There will be people sleeping, eating, dining, shopping all weekend in Hiram," he said.
Slaughter believes it's not going too far to say that the county could certainly use the financial breath of air.
"(The economic crisis) has affected everybody," he says. "Restaurants, gas stations, fast food, I think they're going to see a weekend bounce. That helps the county, and that helps everybody."
For more information on the Georgia Military Softball Championships, visit www.gamilitarystatetournament.com.