More than 250 teenage boys carrying baseball bats and bags will be arriving in Loudoun County this week awaiting the start of two Southeast Region Babe Ruth tournaments. But it appears tournament organizers won't have enough host families for players in one of those tournaments, forcing them to house those players in hotels at a cost that could reach $10,000.
The 13-year-old region tournament will be held at Fireman's Field in Purcellville beginning Friday, and the 16- to 18-year-old tournament will start play today at Broad Run High School in Ashburn. According to Gloria Craun, the tournament housing director, as many as half of the 16- to 18-year-olds might have to be housed in hotels because of a lack of host family volunteers.
The organizers have had no problem finding host families for the 13-year-olds in western Loudoun, however. Craun said she usually calls people she knows and trusts to be host families.
"The problem in eastern Loudoun is that I just don't know that many people there, and you don't want to put these kids with perfect strangers," Craun said.
At Babe Ruth World Series and region tournaments, players traditionally stay with host families instead of at hotels to help defray some of the cost of the trips.
The financial burden is likely to be placed squarely on the shoulders of local tournament organizers. According to Craun, Babe Ruth International Headquarters won't help financially.
But Robert Faherty Jr., Babe Ruth International commissioner, said from his office in Trenton, N.J., he was unaware of the problem and left the door open for possible assistance from his organization. He stopped short, however, of promising aid to Loudoun.
"We want to make sure that the kids are taken care of," Faherty said. "And if that means that Babe Ruth has to step up in some way, we will. . . . Once we determine how big the problem is, we can all get together and try to resolve the situation as best we can. But this isn't a cut-and-dried situation."
Local tournament organizers don't have an extra $10,000 to spend, and they refuse to make teams foot the bill for their own housing when that wasn't part of the original agreement for participation in the tournament.
"We're not going to get any help [financially]," Craun said. "It's our problem, and we're talking about anything possible to solve it."
Craun said she doesn't know how the money is going to be raised just yet, but "anything" is an option, including bake sales.
"We'll deal with that when the time comes," Craun said of raising the funds. "But for now, we just have to find places for these kids to stay."
Craun said some of the 16- to 18-year-olds will be housed in the western part of the county.
One team from Western North Carolina already had requested to be housed in a hotel before the host family shortage became apparent, so tournament officials had accounted in their budget and paid for the hotel rooms.
The Babe Ruth spotlight has been on Loudoun County before. Purcellville hosted the 16-year-old Babe Ruth World Series last summer, the first Babe Ruth World Series held in Virginia. Loudoun has hosted four previous regional tournaments, according to tournament director Ron Yopp.
But the county has never hosted two such tournaments at the same time, which Babe Ruth District VIII Commissioner Don Rose said is causing the problem.
"I would never have been a proponent of having two tournaments at the same time," Rose said. "Factions wanted a tournament in the eastern part of the county. My guess is, now that they have it, they are finding out they weren't ready for it."
CAPTION: 13-Year-Olds Babe Ruth Tournament (This graphic was not available)
CAPTION: 16- to 18-Year-Olds Babe Ruth Tournament (This graphic was not available)
CAPTION: Coach Tom Lucero gives thumbs up at Fireman's Field, site of this year's 13-year-old Babe Ruth region tournament.