It’s rare that a Florida sporting event runs the risk of delay from a massive snowfall. But that’s exactly what Steve Partington is coping with. Steve is the director of the Snowbird Baseball Classic tournament, which is in its second year in the Port Charlotte area. A three-week (Feb. 28 – Mar. 20) affair, the Snowbird features 21 NCAA Division III baseball teams, along with Division I schools Duquesne, St. Louis University, Farleigh Dickenson, and The Ohio State University.
The current spate of bad weather in the nation’s Northeast has made administering the tournament, no mean feat when all conditions are ideal, a bear of a task. “Teams are calling and asking for more practice facilities to be made available,” Steve states. “And that’s requiring us to scramble to come up with suitable venues to meet the demand.”
The primary tournament venues are North County Regional Park on O’Donnell Boulevard in Port Charlotte and South County Regional Park on Cooper Street in Punta Gorda. There are four practice and secondary venues: Port Charlotte, Venice, North Port, and Charlotte high schools.
In 2009, according to Sean Doherty of the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau (Florida Weekly Jan. 28, 2010), the tournament generated more than $2.5 million in direct expenditures and more than 2,800 hotel room nights, showcasing Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands as a vacation destination. Baseball issues notwithstanding, that fact alone makes an already complex responsibility even more daunting for Partington and his staff. But, he doesn’t mind.
Partington, an ex-coach and ex-umpire of more than 35 years’ experience in the Big Ten, SEC, MAC, and ACC collegiate conferences, is doing this for the players. “I wanted to say involved in college ball here in Florida, and the best way was to start the Snowbird Classic.”