Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Little League tourney to leave Pinellas

A Little League player from Alabama practices before batting in the 2007 Little League Southern Regional baseball championship, which have been held in Gulfport for more than four decades.


A Little League player from Alabama practices before batting in the 2007 Little League Southern Regional baseball championship, which have been held in Gulfport for more than four decades.

The Little League Southeast Regional tournament will be held for the last time this summer in Gulfport, leaving Pinellas County after 41 years.

Pinellas schools superintendent Clayton Wilcox confirmed the School Board has an agreement to buy the property to use as part of the expansion of Boca Ciega High School.

The Little League Southeast Regional, which hosts the champions in the 11- to 12-year-old division from eight states, is the last stop for Little League players before they head to the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

This year's weeklong tournament is Aug. 2-8.

Little League has not determined a future site for the tournament and its Southeast headquarters. It will open the bidding to the eight states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — in the Southeast Region.

"No question, it's the end of an era," Little League senior communication executive Lance Van Auken said.

The school district approached Little League International several months ago when it became clear it would need more land as part of the $73-million reconstruction of Boca Ciega High, said Jim Miller, the school system's real estate director. When the organization showed some interest, he said, the district offered to get appraisals. Negotiations began after that.

The School Board approved the deal without fanfare last week; it was one of several items on a portion of the agenda reserved for routine matters.

The district will pay $4.17-million for the property, which includes two ball fields, bleachers, an administration building and two sizable stretches of green space that hug the northeast corner of the school's property. All told, the district will gain 12.8 acres.

Under a sales contract between Little League International and the district, the league will retain the property through Sept. 21 so it can hold its 2008 tournament there.

The high school sits on 33 acres of usable land, below the minimum recommended for high schools by the Florida Department of Education. Original plans called for limited green space when the project is done — the football field and a small general purpose playing field on the northeast corner of the property. But the purchase will give the district extra space to locate storm drainage facilities and more room on the playing field.

In addition, the school plans to use the existing Little League ball fields this year.

"You have a lot of latitude on what you can do with the site," Miller said.

Van Auken said Little League agreed to sell the property because the complex offers little room for expansion.

"We sort of outgrew the facility," Van Auken said.

The Little League Southeast Regional is little in name only. It is a megaevent with voluminous television and media coverage.

"It's a bittersweet moment for me to see the regional move," said Van Auken, who started playing baseball at Cross Bayou in 1967 and has been involved with Little League ever since. "I watched games there as a 9-year-old.

"I know it will have an emotional effect on others, as well. But progress is progress."

Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes said he was sad to lose the league but glad the property will be used for education.

The annual tournament was "our most prestigious event," he said. "It was our World Series, our time to shine."

Once, when ESPN broadcasters referred to the location as St. Petersburg, the mayor corrected them: "You understand, you're in Gulfport.''

"It hurts," Yakes said. "But what really hurts is we don't have the ground to replace it."

Times staff writer Thomas C. Tobin contributed to this report. Bob Putnam can be reached at or (727) 445-4169.

Little League tourney to leave Pinellas 03/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2008 10:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour


    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  2. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  3. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half



    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.
  4. Rays journal: Archer has strong outing, with two mistakes

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Two pitches RHP Chris Archer didn't execute are the ones that stood out Thursday as Josh Donaldson hit them out of the park. But the two solo home runs aside, Archer turned in a sterling outing that went atop the pile of good pitching the Rays keep wasting.

    Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) works during the first inning. [Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP]
  5. Tim Tebow continues wowing fans as he wraps up bay area games


    CLEARWATER — Tracey Fritzinger has seen Tim Tebow play baseball a few times this year. The 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident went to two of his games against the Tampa Yankees, along with Joy, her little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow, middle, hangs out in the dugout during Thursday night’s game against the Clearwater Threshers at Spectrum Field, the last of St. Lucie’s eight-day trip to the Tampa Bay area.