Shelby, N.C., is locally known for being home to country music hall of fame inductee Don Gibson and bluegrass artist Earl Scruggs, the author of the theme song to the TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies." But the City of Pleasant Living made history last May when it was awarded The American Legion Baseball World Series for 2011-2014; the city has a goal of permanently hosting the event.
However, Shelby, located in Cleveland County, is not a rookie when it comes to hosting a Legion World Series. The community hosted its first ALWS in 2008, achieving record attendance and a $4 million economic impact. Thus, knowing what permanently hosting the World Series can do for Cleveland County, along with the program in general, the outpour of enthusiasm and support from the community has been outstanding in an effort to create a grand slam World Series.
One of the many ways Cleveland County is supporting the program is through donations – monetary and voluntary contributions. Though Keeter Stadium received a few upgrades for the 2008 World Series, an estimated $1.2 million face lift is still needed to bring the stadium to national standards. Funding to make the needed changes is generously coming from the hands of private, corporate and foundation donors, while additional support comes in the way of good old southern hospitality.
"In these difficult economic times, our community has stepped up and supported our efforts in creating the best American Legion World Series," said Eddie Holbrook, co-chairman of Shelby's Baseball World Series Committee. "When I lay out the committee's vision for the World Series, people want to be a part of it in any way they can."
A few upgrades and additions Keeter Stadium will see in the next month include a donated high-tech scoreboard with message center and video; a donated 1,800 square foot building to serve as the World Series headquarters for national staff; sunken dugouts with rails, storage lights and restrooms; a warning track; and 1,000 more seats added to the current 4,000. Further down the road, the tournament committee is looking to upgrade the stadium lights, put turf on the field, extend the overhead canopy to cover all seating and implement wireless accommodations.
"In the end, we are going to have a first-class facility," said Roger Holland, co-founder of Holland & Hamrick Architects. Holland and his colleagues spent countless hours designing the stadium upgrades for a small price – free. And once the landscape and mechanical engineer architects heard what Holland & Hamrick was doing, and why, they also provided their expertise for free.
"People have to understand the great leadership we have with Eddie Holbrook and Jim Horn (co-chairman of the baseball committee)," Holland said. "These two gentlemen have instilled in Cleveland County how important it is to have the Legion World Series here permanently – not only for the kids but for the entire community. They have instilled the enthusiasm to have all of us wanting to help out."
Additionally, Legion Post 82 in Shelby is purchasing the furniture for the World Series headquarters building and local company Turner Trucking is putting 5-foot tall Shelby American Legion World Series logos on the sides of many trailers. Moreover, there are 300 volunteers helping with stadium and field maintenance, concessions and hospitality, finance, public relations, operations, manpower, tourism and hotel accommodations, entertainment and photography, as well as banquet, transportation, military and medical needs.
"We want people to leave the American Legion World Series next year saying, ‘Wow, they really know how to do things right,'" Holbrook said.