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Several youth baseball teams from Virginia and North Carolina will descend on the island for the inaugural Ocracoke Island Invitational Tournament Memorial Weekend May 27 and 28 at Community Park, 148 Maurice Ballance Rd.
Ocracoke Youth Center, a local non-profit, is organizing the event to develop baseball programs at Ocracoke Community Park after years of relentless hard work by volunteers to create a ball field at the end of Maurice Ballance Road.
A real-life “Field of Dreams” story, this vision goes back to 2011 when the Ocracoke Raptors Little League team were created in the front yards of residents to teach kids about baseball.
Vince O’Neal, president of Ocracoke Youth Center, was coach at the time and said the field is a longtime dream of his. The new ballfield opened in 2015.
“We are very excited,” said Tabitha Clay, manager of the Orange County Pride, a 12-and-under (12U) baseball team from Rhoadesville, Va. “We have been to the Outer Banks for vacation, but not Ocracoke. We want the kids to experience something completely different, something they’ll never forget.”
“Bringing teams here to play is great for the island,” said tournament director Jeramy Guillory. “It encourages our kids to plan and learn the culture of baseball, but it also gives visitors a chance to learn about our community and be part of the culture of Ocracoke.”
In addition, these tournaments provide economic impact. A six-team United States Specialty Sports Association baseball tournament can bring over 100 families to the island and create tourist dollars from lodging, restaurants, groceries, rentals and merchandising.
Ideally, the park would like to schedule these events in the shoulder season of early spring and in between major events already on the calendar to draw revenue during the slower weekends.
Visiting teams are invited to the annual Firemen’s Ball and pig pickin’ on Saturday, a fundraising event for the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department. Click here for information.
“The park is testing one weekend per month this year, but as the Raptors and Blue Claws get organized it is easy to see how convenient it would be if teams just came to us each weekend,” Guillory said. “Our players have to check out of school early and get home on the late-night ferry to play Little League in Hatteras.”
The Ocracoke Island Invitational will be a USSSA qualifier tournament for 12U division teams, with double headers for each team on Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the Ocracoke Raptors and the Pride, the other teams attending the tournament will be Tar River Cats from Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County, the Carolina Pirates of Wake Forest, Tidewater Bombers from Chesapeake, Va., OBX Riptides from Kitty Hawk, Dare County, the Carolina Pirates of Wake Forest, and the Dare County All Stars of Manteo.
Games begin Saturday at 8 a.m. The schedule is below.
Two more tournaments are scheduled for June 17 and July 15. For more information, call Guillory at 540-577–5959, or visit www.ocracokecommunitypark.com.