Huge ‘Battle at Beach’ wraps up Saturday at MGM

The college baseball doubleheader at MGM Park this afternoon is launching a weekend of baseball at the downtown park, culminating  with four high school games that will bring the curtain down on a weeklong “Battle at the Beach” tournament that has featured 30 high school teams.

The college doubleheader features Loyola and Tougaloo at 4 and Jackson State and Alcorn State at 7:05, but the bigger story is the four high school games on Saturday: Biloxi vs. Warren Central at 10 a.m., Gulfport vs. Madison Central at 1 p.m., Ocean Springs vs. New Hope at 4 p.m. and D’Iberville vs. Pascagoula at 7:05 p.m.

The high school marathon is the brainchild of Eddie Lofton, head baseball coach at Biloxi High School.

Before Lofton became head baseball coach at Biloxi a couple years ago, he was at Clinton High School, where his team traveled every year to Gulf Shores, Ala., to take part in an annual baseball tournament.

“It was a great time for the guys to get away from Clinton, to enjoy a little vacation and involve baseball,” Lofton said. “And the parents loved it, too.”

Fast forward to Biloxi, a city with beaches, great seafood restaurants, family attractions, neighboring high school baseball teams and ballparks, and, of course, MGM Park.

The “Battle at the Beach” was born.

Lofton began calling around to his colleagues near and far and the result has been a 30-team, 60-game tournament that began Monday night and has teams playing at nine sites, including the Biloxi High School campus, Gulfport, Ocean Springs, D’Iberville and St. Martin.

Besides local teams, the tournament has attracted teams from as far away as Mooreville, a small community near Tupelo; Buckhorn, Ala., a community nearly six hours from the Coast, near Huntsville; South Panola and Hernando, two other Mississippi communities. 

“For some of these players and their parents, this has been a great vacation, coinciding with Spring Break,” Lofton said. “They get to go to the beach, visit some great seafood restaurants, stay in great hotels, and we’ve had some great baseball.”

Lofton’s efforts have also drawn praise.

“He started planning for this event in April of last year and it has been a huge success,” Indians supporter Robert Collier of Biloxi wrote in a recent Facebook post. “Hotels are booked, restaurants are full, and stores are busy with players, parents and fans from all over Mississippi and Alabama.”

“It has also brought to these games Major League and college baseball scouts and representatives to watch future prospects,” Collier added. “As a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals said, ‘Plenty of times I have come to these games looking at a single prospect and walked away with notes on several players.”

Lofton, meantime, is already thinking of an even better Battle at the Beach next year.

Said Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich: “This is the kind of community spirit and initiative that drives Biloxi. I’ve always said, ‘Visit once and you’ll come back,’ and Eddie Lofton is making it happen.”
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Start your weekend with a bit of Biloxi history

OK, it’s Friday afternoon, slip away from the office and drop by the Biloxi Library to see some oldtime Biloxi. This afternoon between 2 to 4 p.m., the Local History and Genealogy Department will host a come-and-go as you like screening of  the half-hour documentary “Social Change in a Democracy,” which was shot in Biloxi in 1951. Librarian Jane Shambra wants viewers to help identify people and locations from back in the day.

Elsewhere this weekend, the Broadway hit “A Few Good Men” is on stage at Biloxi Little Theater, Loretta Lynn will be at the Beau Rivage, Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo are at the Hard Rock, and REO Speedwagon headlines at the IP Casino Resort. Over at Center Stage, drop by and meet The Taffetas.
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See a complete weekend lineup


News and notes

Bike Biloxi:  Biloxi Main Street will hold its March installment of Bike Biloxi on Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m.  The bike ride ride follows a little over a six mile route that begins and ends at the Biloxi Visitor Center.  For more information, call the Main Street office at 228-435-6336.

Biloxi council meeting:  The next scheduled meeting for the Biloxi City Council is Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., followed by a special meeting to discuss railroad crossings. Both meetings are at Biloxi City Hall and open to the public.  To see the agendas and supporting documents, click here