By Joel Hall
The So So Def recording label, founded by Jermaine Dupri, and softball-equipment manufacturing giant, DeMarini, will host one of the country's largest black softball league tournaments this weekend in Lovejoy.
On May 24 and 25, Lovejoy Regional Park, also know as the Gerald Matthews Sports Complex, will host the World Series qualifiers for the Black American Softball Association (BASA) and the Black Softball Circuit (BSC). In what is being dubbed the So So Def/DeMarini Softball Tournament, 101 black softball teams from around the country will compete on nine baseball diamonds at the park.
Additional games will be played at Independence Park at 8970 Thomas Road in Jonesboro, and John Truelove Park at 3010 Oakvale Road in Decatur, on Saturday only.
Visitors will be able to enjoy the games for only a $2, one-day entry fee, which entitles them to raffles for DeMarini bats, gloves, and other sporting equipment. Games, raffles, and performances by up-and-coming musical artists will take place throughout the tournament.
Arthur Drake, executive director of BASA, said the black softball leagues chose Lovejoy Regional Park because it is "one of the best facilities" in metro Atlanta.
"We expect to have about 3,000 spectators and players this weekend," said Drake. "We bring a lot of participants, so we needed a place that could really house that."
Four divisions of BASA and BSC -- women's competitive, women's recreational, men's recreational, and men's super recreational -- will battle for the top positions in their respective leagues.
The top teams from the BSC will travel to the BSC World Series, that will be held from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1, in Columbus, Ga. BASA's top teams will travel to the BASA World Series, to be held Sept. 5-7 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Drake said in the 15 years of the league's existence, this is the first time a national sponsor has taken BASA under its wing. He believes the sponsorship will improve the tournament and give it much more recognition.
"We are one of the best-kept secrets for people who are not into softball," said Drake. "This is the first time that a national sponsor took a chance on our program. It validates us on a national level ... I think it will make it an all-around better tournament for the participants."
The Hillsboro, Ore.-based DeMarini, presently a subsidiary of Wilson Sporting Goods, took a special interest in creating bats and equipment for softball starting in 1989. Jeff LeRiche, DeMarini national slow pitch manager, said sponsoring the tournament was a natural fit.
"It's my job to get in front of the customers and show them what our product can do," said LeRiche. "Anytime we can get in front of a hundred teams on a weekend, is time well-spent for us.
"We just saw that it was an under-appreciated circuit," LeRiche added. "They run good tournaments, they have good teams, and they weren't getting the attention they deserved."
On Friday night, So So Def and DeMarini will host a welcome party for the participants and the public at the ballroom of the Clarion Hotel Atlanta Airport from 9 p.m., to 2 a.m.
For more information, go to www.blacksoftballcircuit.com, or www.basasoftball.com.