Preparations under way for regional softball tourney at Little League Southeast Park

WARNER ROBINS -- Most days Cheryl Miller gets to the fields at Little League Southeast Park at 8 a.m. and leaves at 6 p.m., and some days it’s later than that.

Friday afternoon, Miller, the new facilities maintenance manager, raked dirt at home plate, while Peter Frikker, the assistant director of the Little League Southeastern Regional, swept the warning track nearby.

“I started July 9 and haven’t had a day off yet,” Miller said.

Preparations were in full swing last week as the staff prepared for its first batch of regional games for the 11- and 12-year-old softball tournament. Teams from South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina arrive Wednesday, with the first games scheduled for Thursday. Bibb County’s own Western Little League will represent Georgia.

Although new to the state, Miller worked at Little League’s headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., from 2005-10 as the head groundskeeper.

With the difference in weather and grass from Pennsylvania to Georgia, Miller said she has had to learn on her feet how to make the fields look good.

“I’ll have it as identical to Lamade as I can field-wise,” Miller said, comparing the Southeast fields to Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, where the Little League World Series is held.

In addition to prepping the fields, Little League officials also are readying volunteers.

The number of people interested in helping during the regional increased from last year.

About 100 to 120 people, up from about 75 last year, attended a July 19 volunteer meeting, said Jimmy Autry, a volunteer.

“Volunteers help us run the tournament better,” said Frikker, who was encouraged by the turnout now that the tournament is in its third year.

Spectators can expect some changes at the tournament. Pop-up tents will not be allowed to be left up overnight and must be taken down every day, Frikker said.

Depending on the crowds, there is talk of having a concession stand on the hill, but nothing will be determined until later in the tournament.

With the U.S. Army Reserve Center being constructed at the corner of Snellgrove and Cohen Walker drives, Frikker expects to lose a few parking spots. But police will ensure there is still enough parking available, he said.

Golf carts and a pedestrian path will be used again this year to help people get from their cars to the stadium.

“By Wednesday night, we might be here late, but it will be ready,” Frikker said.