Gulf Coast Classic attracts top high school teams
By Graham Dunn
GULF SHORES - Over the course of the next few days, River Region Sports will be on the road with two teams playing in the prestigious Gulf Coast Classic baseball tournament in Gulf Shores.
Both LAMP and Brewbaker Tech are scheduled to play four games during the four days. RRS will cover the different aspects of the tournament including what the players and coaches do on a four-day trip.
“We are going to have some fun,” LAMP coach Rocky Smith said prior to the trip. “It’s a great tournament and because you have so many good teams there, it’s a great chance to face great competition and enjoy some time away from school.”
The schedule included 20 games on Monday. A line of showers drove through the area overnight Sunday, putting the fields underwater. Rain continued on Monday and all of the games were postponed until Tuesday, including LAMP’s doubleheader against Hueytown and Pinson Valley. Brew Tech also had its scheduled game against Huntsville moved to Tuesday.
LAMP has made the trip a few times. Last year, it won three games against solid competition.
The tournament is nine years old and has grown to be one of the most prestigious in the state. This year, 27 teams are entered from four different states.
“When we started in 2000, we had five teams,” Gulf Shores coach Donnie Spohn said. “The next year, we had 10 teams. It is growing every year to the point that we have a waiting list of 60 teams if anybody drops out.”
For some reason, teams from Oklahoma are prominent on the list. Another local tournament features an “Oklahoma vs. Alabama” genre with all 12 teams coming from the two states.
“It started with word of mouth among coaches,” Spohn said. “Once the word got out, teams started contacting us. Everybody loves to come to the beach.”
The thought might be that a vacation spot like Gulf Shores would not need a substantial event such as a 28-team baseball tournament during Spring Break. But the community uses the week as well as the weekend prior to the tournament to bolster the economy.
“Last year, the baseball tourney generated 1,500 room nights, $1.5 million economic impact on the area,” said Michelle Russ of the Alabama Gulf Coast Sports Commission. “These are great events and we look forward to them every year. We have a healthy traffic. That’s our goal when we bring in spring and fall events.”
The week also features a large softball tournament. Teams from all over the country participate including Alabama Christian Academy, which also had its game rained out Monday.