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July 23, 1996

Atlanta may have the Olympics but Perry is equally proud of its role as host to the state AAA American Legion baseball tournament this weekend. For one thing it gives us a chance to show off Joe Ripley field, the sparkling new baseball park just off the bend of U.S. 77 in northeast Perry. For another it will attract hundreds of visitors here Friday through Sunday and we want to afford them every courtesy. If you see some strangers in town, be sure to make them feel welcome. We hope they will return to their homes with a favorable impression of Perry stamped in their memory.

Visitors surely cannot help but be impressed with our new facility, which was formally dedicated in the spring of 1994 but is still being improved. The grandstand and the outfield fence were completed only this year. The name honors longtime Perry baseball figure Joe Ripley, former pitcher and manager of some noteworthy semi-pro teams from this community. The field, made possible through a gift from the Exchange Bank & Trust Co., probably is one of the main reasons the tournament was awarded to Perry.

Joe himself will be in the park for most of the games. He will be doing color commentary of all the Perry games with play-by-play announcer John Dawson for the local radio station, KVCS, which will carry the action live. Mike Doughty will be the familiar voice on the ballpark public address system and will help all of us understand the action on the field.

The sale of tickets is totally under the control of the sponsoring Oklahoma American Legion Baseball Association. All tickets will be general admission and they will be sold only at the gate on game days; none will be sold in advance. Additional bleachers are being brought in to accommodate the anticipated crowd. Two games will be played Friday night, three more on Saturday afternoon and evening, and the finals will be played Sunday. The tournament format is double-elimination.

Three of the four teams that qualified for the tournament were chosen through zone tourneys the past week. Perry won its district tournament but qualified for the state meet because it is the host city and thus did not have to play at the zone level. The local team is very competitive and likely would have made it to state even without the automatic certification.

To Perry Coach Raydon Leaton, this is all a "field of dreams" experience. Coach Leaton returned to Perry this summer after a stint as pitching coach at Indianapolis University. Six years ago he was just starting here as coach of the PHS Maroons. He called a meeting of local baseball enthusiasts, organized the Diamond Club to coordinate the efforts of supporters, and established two ambitious goals: 1. Secure a fine new baseball park for our high school and Legion teams; and, 2. Bring a state Legion tournament to Perry.

Coach Leaton left Perry for the Indianapolis job before those goals were met, but he had set the wheels in motion and now we have seen the realization of Goal No. 1 -- Joe Ripley Field. The second goal was met shortly after that when the state Legion association chose Perry for this year's triple-A tournament.

Now Coach Leaton is back with us to resume his old job as skipper of the Maroons and the local AAA Legion team. It's a very timely return, and we thank him for his energy, enthusiasm and vision of Perry's baseball future. Good luck to him and to our entry in the state tournament here this weekend. Let's play ball!