The All ‘A’ Classic baseball state tournament is coming to Owensboro.
The annual small-school competition has been in Lexington since its inception in 2004, but newly renovated Independence Bank Field at Chautauqua Park will take over as host for the foreseeable future.
With the All ‘A’ softball state tournament already seeing success each year at Jack C. Fisher Park, Jared Bratcher said the city has sought the baseball competition “for a long time.”
Both tournaments will be held April 27-28, 2019.
“A lot of people deserve credit for that,” said Bratcher, sports director of the Owensboro Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Softball’s been coming here for seven, eight years, and they couldn’t be happier here in Owensboro, Kentucky.
“I don’t know if they were unhappy in Lexington, but I think the softball folks gave them a heads-up of the way they’ve been treated in Owensboro and discussed maybe having that tournament the same weekend.”
Whitaker Bank Ballpark — previously Applebee’s Park — has hosted the All ‘A’ Classic since it began.
With the new improvements at Chautauqua Park, as well as its smaller capacity, Bratcher sees it as a perfect fit.
The plan is to eventually expand the eight-team field into a 16-squad tournament, eliminating sectional games in favor of bringing a representative from each region to Owensboro.
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“Our goal very soon, within the first couple of years, is to bring 16 baseball teams to town and play at Chautauqua Park and Kentucky Wesleyan,” Bratcher added.
The turf infield at Independence Bank will also allow the tournament to continue even through inclement weather — which was a problem this year in Lexington, when the All ‘A’ Classic was postponed several times.
“It’s a big relief to know that we’re playing ball at some point,” Bratcher said. “As soon as it quits raining, it’ll be ready in a matter of minutes.”
Owensboro Catholic High School, in the second year of a 10-year lease with the city for use of the facilities, didn’t need much convincing.
“We think that’s an opportunity to make some money for the program, hopefully,” OCHS athletic director David Blanford said. “Then, hopefully we can play in it.”
There’s no set contract or timetable for the All ‘A’ Classic’s use of Independence Bank Field, but organizers don’t anticipate any problems with the current arrangement.
“We don’t have a long-term contract, it’s a handshake agreement,” Bratcher said. “It’s an indefinite agreement.
“They don’t want to leave, and we don’t want them to leave. We hope they’re in Owensboro for a long time.”