Dixie Youth World Series underway in Gonzales

Michael Tortorich
Dixie Youth World Series chairman Gregg Patterson, right, receives the ball after the ceremonial first pitch. Also throwing out ceremonial pitches were State Sen. Jody Amedee, Mayor Barney Arceneaux and Dixie Youth National Director and former mayor Johnny Berthelot.

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The Dixie Youth World Series kicked off with a bang Friday night in Gonzales.

Fireworks lit up the night sky to conclude the event, which was a little bit of Mardi Gras and a lot of rockin' numbers courtesy Gonzales' own Center Stage performers.

Even Gov. Bobby Jindal stopped by Spartan Stadium to offer well wishes. Though the games were still a day away, Jindal said everyone was already a winner.

The grand welcoming marked the start of the tournament, which runs Aug. 6-12.

A total of 22 baseball teams from 11 southeastern states are vying for championships on city fields. The teams, from the 11- and 12-year-old and 9- and 10-year-old divisions, are state championship winners. Two spots were reserved for Gonzales host teams.

"We had a wonderful commitee work very hard for this," Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux said.

He pointed to the "two guys who really took the bull by the horns" in the planning of the series: Chairman Gregg Patterson and former mayor Johnny Berthelot.

Patterson was a star pitcher for East Ascension High School. He played for LSU and pitched in the College World Series. Patterson went on to join the Chicago Cubs.

The previous mayor, who served the city for 24 years, put in the bid for Gonzales to host the series. Berthelot serves as a Dixie Youth National Director.

"They are the future," Berthelot said, referring to the young baseball players. "They are our future. And we're glad to have them here in Gonzales."

"I may be prejudiced to say this, but our facilities and hospitality will be something you'll remember the rest of your lives," he said.

Berthelot also recognized the host families and volunteers, Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez, Sheriff Jeff Wiley, Randy Gautureau and city employees.

"This is a small community. Dixie started in rural communities like Gonzales. They gave us a chance," Berthelot said.

Dixie Youth Commissioner Wes Skelton acknowledged that hosting a World Series "is not something a community takes lightly."

"You all came here as champions, and you're all going to leave here as champions," he said. "If you happen to come out on top, don't forget about the other guys."

Shown during the Pledge of Allegiance are Dixie Youth President P.L. Corley, Dixie Youth Commissioner Wes Skelton, Mayor Barney Arceneaux, emcee Martin McConnell, Ronnie Hughes, Dixie Youth National Director Johnny Berthelot and Dixie Youth World Series Chairman Gregg Patterson.