Since 2007, USSSA Tournament grows from 30 teams to almost 400
(SALISBURY, MD) — Nearly 400 softball teams from across the country will travel to Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore for the annual United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Eastern Nationals Championship. What started as a tournament of 30 teams in 2007, has swelled to more than 370 in a little more than a decade. With more than 5,000 players and their families visiting the Delmarva peninsula over the next three weeks, tournament play will be spread out at venues across Wicomico and Worcester Counties, as well as Ocean City.
“For the teams, the event and the location is a perfect culmination of their season – playing competitive softball in arguably the East Coast’s best summer beach community,” said Bill Dowell, USSSA Vice President of Fastpitch/ Maryland & Delaware State Fastpitch Director.
Andrew Kurtz, Wicomico County sports marketing representative, says many families also use the softball tournament as an opportunity to take advantage of the Lower Shore as a vacation destination, “Wicomico and Worcester Counties and the Town of Ocean City will see a boost in tourist activities throughout the three weeks of tournament play.” Kurtz and tournament organizers say teams will be traveling to the region from all across the United States, from as far west as Utah, with some visitors coming from Canada as well.
Wicomico County has been the home of the USSSA Eastern Nationals since 2007. As the event grew in popularity, organizers were forced to adapt to meet the demand. In 2014, the tournament was hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Sports Alliance (MAASA), a multi-jurisdictional sports marketing partnership consisting of the Town of Ocean City, Wicomico and Worcester Counties. MAASA is the first partnership of its kind in the United States, working together to combine resources and assets with the goal of attracting, retaining, and recruiting sports marketing events.
“Over the years we have worked with USSSA East and our partners in MAASA to help grow the Eastern Nationals,” Kurtz said, adding, “This event is now one of the largest fast-pitch tournaments in one location in the nation.” Wicomico and Worcester Counties and the Town of Ocean City are also members of TEAM Maryland, a statewide initiative designed to collectively market Maryland to the entire sports industry as a sport-tourism destination.
In terms of the tournament’s economic benefit to the area, MAASA reported direct impact spending at more than $5 million in 2018. This included the booking of more than 13,000 hotel rooms in Wicomico and Worcester Counties and the Town of Ocean City. Wicomico Recreation, Parks and Tourism estimates an overall economic impact of more than $20 million dollars across the three jurisdictions this year.
“The partnership between MAASA, the USSSA East and Maryland Sports is one that has been incredibly beneficial for the Lower Eastern Shore and the state as a whole,” said Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director of Maryland’s Sports Commission. “It’s been truly exciting to watch this tournament grow as it has, where the players, their families and the local community look forward to this event each year.”
Delmarva residents have embraced the USSSA. Over the years, players have been welcomed to the area with messages and signage posted at area businesses. Local restaurants have hosted themed-takeover nights hoping to capitalize on the event.
James Simmons, Recreation Superintendent for Wicomico County Recreation, Parks and Tourism says the tournament has built a bond between the local community with the softball community:
“This is a huge opportunity for our local softball programs, leagues and teams. Hosting a national event in our hometown is great for our locals to see the best that the sport has to offer. Over the years, we have seen that bleed into our local community and their passion and dedication for the sport.”
In the past, teams have enjoyed group outings at the Salisbury Zoo and Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds. This year, players and their families have opportunities to take advantage of discounted pricing at many area attractions around Salisbury and Ocean City.
Opening ceremonies for Weeks 1 and 2 will include a team parade through Downtown Salisbury and Week 3 will kickoff with a parade on the Ocean City Boardwalk.For each of the opening ceremonies, players are encouraged to wear costumes supporting this year’s “Stars and Stripes” theme.
Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex in Salisbury will once again serve as the main fields for tournament play. Games will be hosted at sites around Wicomico and Worcester Counties, as well as at Northside Park in the Town of Ocean City.
The USSSA Eastern Nationals are divided into three tournament weeks:
Week 1: July 17 – 21; 10U, 12U Open
Week 2: July 23 – 28; 14U Open, 14U B
Week 3: July 29 – August 3; 16U Open, 18U Open, 18U B
For more information, including a complete schedule of tournament events, visit: http://www.wicosports.org/sporting-events/EasternNationalChampionships
The Mid-Atlantic Amateur Sports Alliance (MAASA) works to link and leverage the combined assets of Ocean City and Wicomico and Worcester Counties to attract, retain and build sports marketing events with a focus on amatue athletics, to establish a national reputation and grow the region’s economic impact.
About Maryland Sports:
The mission of Maryland’s Sports Commission is to enhance Maryland’s economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion, retention and development of regional, national and international sporting events.