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Visit Kingsport hosts 13th consecutive NAIA baseball opening round

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Model City welcomed teams for its’ thirteenth consecutive year as a host city for the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round.

Visit Kingsport and Hunter Wright Stadium were chosen as the hosts through a competitive bid process. Visit Kingsport Director of Sports Bradly Hoover told News Channel 11 that the tournament typically comes together at the last minute.

“Each time we put in a bid, you know, we hope to get them back,” Hoover said., “It’s always a surprise. We’re always sitting there kind of watching the news for a flash-up and say that Visit Kingsport’s the host again.”

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With the Model City as a longtime host, teams have been able to build memories and a relationship with the city and space.

“The opening round for NAIA here in Kingsport is probably one of the best weeks of baseball of the entire year,” Tennessee Wesleyan Vice President and Director of Athletics Donny Mayfield told News Channel 11.

The week is about more than baseball. Hoover said this year’s tournament brought about 500 people and their wallets into the city.

“It’s an awesome economic impact on our area,” Hoover said. “They’re staying in our hotels, they’re eating our restaurants, they’re supporting our local small businesses. So that’s a lot of dollars that are flowing in Kingsport through sports tourism. “

Wesleyan’s Mayfield said he’s identified some favorite spots over the years coming to Opening Rounds.

“The restaurants here are great, you know, Riverfront (Seafood) is always one of our favorite spots to stop at when we’re here in Kingsport,” Mayfield said.

Hoover says upgrades to the Hunter Wright this year, including a new turf field, have made the tournament a success.

“That’s been a big hit, especially with me been dealing with the elements this week as much as the Tri-Cities has,” Hoover said.

The winner of Wednesday night’s game will compete in the NAIA World Series.

Hoover pointed out that out of the 13 winners, four teams, including Wesleyan, have moved on from Kingsport to win the World Series.

“We like to joke and say that the path to get to the whole thing and win it all, cuts through Kingsport,” Hoover said.

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