CHIPLEY - Flashes from bolts of lightening that ripped the skies over the baseball fields at Chipley High School during Saturday's game signaled only one thing: baseball is baseball.
Although they got off field immediately, the five-day Dixie Pre-Majors World Series continued on throughout the weekend. The crowning game will be held today at 10 a.m. on the field. A second game, if necessary, will be held at 4 p.m.
"In Chipley, there's only one thing going on right now: it's the World Series. And we're here to play baseball," said Ronnie Jackson, Deputy Commissioner of the Majors Program and Chairman of Board of Dixie Boys Baseball. "You'll see some great baseball. Most of these are high school kids. It's very good talent."
The tournament brought in 11 teams, with Chipley Dixie Majors, Inc. in partnership with Washington County Tourist Development Council as the host. The teams - ages 13 to 19 - cover the 11 southern states. The program furnishes five World Series tournaments from July to August.
Chipley Dixie Majors, Inc. President Andy Compton has coached with Dixie for several years - including for the Dixie National Team which is affiliated to USA Baseball, a derivative of Major League Baseball.
Jackson said speaking with Compton has encouraged the tournament to continue to come to Chipley.
"Just talking to Coach Compton, you have an overflow of support coming from the community," Jackson said. "It's great for the area to bring all of these people. And, plus, it's great people. Chipley is a small town, but a great town. That's why we come here."
The tournament has made an economic impact. When Chipley hosted it in 2014, it brought in about $360,000 and about $21,500 in state sales tax, according to TDC officials. This year, hotel rooms were scarce or sold-out during the time of the tournament.
"We really like to come to smaller communities because we're here to play baseball - it seems that the smaller communities really buy into that, instead of going to the big communities where there's too much stuff to do," Jackson added.
The organization is all-volunteer. Jackson, who has been with Dixie for more than three decades, contrasted the nonprofit Dixie to travel-bought programs in which kids can play to pay.
"Most tournaments you have, you can buy your way in," he said. "Our World Series, you have to play at the district level, state level and then you can come to the world series. It's a progressive thing where you have to win to get in."
Popular MLB names such as Tom "Flash" Gordon, Mike Hampton and Jeff "Frenchy" Francoeur came out of the Dixie teams.
"Baseball is baseball," Jackson said. "We've been trying to expand, it's hard to expand with all the other organizations. Travel-ball has affected us."
However, "Our thing is we try to teach them to not only be better baseball players, but also to be better citizens," he added. "That's what our purpose is."