Gulf South tourney set for Chattanooga's AT&T Field

Gulf South tourney set for Chattanooga's AT&T Field

January 29th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Baseball fans enjoy a game at AT&T Field directly behind home plate in general admission seats.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

The Gulf South Conference will hold its eight-team, double-elimination baseball tournament at Chattanooga's AT&T Field this spring.

It will mark the first time college baseball has been held on multiple days at AT&T since the 6,340-seat facility opened in 2000. The tournament will start May 2 with four games, and it will end May 6 with the championship contest.

"We are absolutely thrilled that we were able to make this work in the city of Chattanooga," Gulf South commissioner Nate Salant said Monday. "We're coming to a great ballpark in a city that has about as much baseball history as you can find in the Southeast. It's a fabulous, fabulous place."

Formed in 1970, the Gulf South is an NCAA Division II conference comprised of Alabama-Huntsville, Christian Brothers in Memphis, North Alabama, Valdosta State, West Alabama, West Florida, West Georgia and Delta State in Cleveland, Miss. West Florida won the Division II national championship in 2011, and current Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham played at North Alabama.

Lee University will begin competing in the Gulf South in 2014-15 and will be eligible for the league baseball tournament in 2016.

"It's bringing collegiate baseball to Chattanooga," Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee president Tim Morgan said. "It is D-II baseball, but you are going to see some powerhouses playing in it. Delta State played in the D-II championship game last year, and they're pretty strong annually."

Morgan estimates an economic impact of $80,000 to $85,000, and that's just for each team's traveling party of 34 people. Salant said every team will be in Chattanooga for at least three days.

The Lookouts will be in Birmingham while AT&T hosts the Gulf South event and be back to face Mobile on May 7.

"It was one of those things that just kind of made sense," Lookouts general manager Rich Mozingo said. "We have a beautiful facility, and if we can get more people in there and enjoying it, then hopefully it is going to spill over into more people coming out for Lookouts games."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.