Nice place to play


Hello from Hoover.

This bedroom community south of Birmingham is hosting the SEC baseball tournament for the 11th straight year. On a picture perfect morning this year’s tournament began in front of a decent crowd for an 11 a.m. local start.

It is my first trip here in six years and there have been improvements to Regions Park, the home of the Birmingham Barons. Still, you can’t help but wonder why the tournament continues to be here at a stadium tucked behind a subdivision.

I can give you five reasons:

1. Hoover wants it ” The city has done whatever it takes to keep the tournament in Hoover, including $4 million in renovations over the last year. Every time the contract comes up for renewal, the SEC makes demands and usually gets them met. The league in 1997 played the tournament in Columbus, Ga., (it was a disaster) as leverage against Hoover thinking it was an automatic.

2. Who else wants it? ” Memphis made some noise a couple of years ago, but the city’s ballpark has severe parking issues. Jackson, Miss., has inquired. So has Nashville. But this is not an event with a big demand. Our state is hosting the ACC Tournament this year and the Big East next year but there has been zero interest in hosting the SEC. One reason is that UF doesn’t draw big numbers for baseball.

3. It’s in Alabama ” Look, we all know that the SEC would like to have every event, news conference, golf outing and senior prom in the state. The home office is in Birmingham. Enough said.

4. It’s still in Alabama ” The bottom line is that the teams that draw the best for baseball find Hoover to be a centrally-located place to play.

5. The stadium ” The place seats a little more than 10,000 which is all you’re going to draw for an SEC championship game. The league would rather have a packed stadium for television than 10,000 people in a big major league stadium (like Turner Field in Atlanta).

To be honest, I like it here although the seven-hour drive was a bit much. The biggest problem I have with Regions Park is that it’s 340 feet down each line. The big park means that three or four balls a game that would be out of any SEC stadium are fly outs. And to me, that would be like having the SEC basketball tournament on 11-foot rims.

But, hey, they built a new press box so I’m not complaining.