The war for the attention of baseball fans in the High Point area is heating up and, in that war between the storied Finch Field, home of the HiToms, and the shiny new BB&T Point stadium, home of the High Point Rockers, Finch Field just scored: It’s been selected to host the 2019 Junior Legion State Tournament from Thursday, July 18 to Tuesday, July 23.
Finch Field is only 3.2 miles from the brand spanking new stadium in downtown High Point that will be trying to attract the same pool of baseball fans when both the HiToms and Rockers’ seasons get underway in about two months.
Now Finch Field has another event to boost its profile in 2019 since the American Legion sponsored baseball tournament will bring a lot of people and tourist dollars to High Point and Thomasville this summer.
Finch Field was built in 1935 by Thomasville Furniture Industries as a recreational outlet for the company’s employees. In the late1930’s, the HiToms – originally known as the Tommies – began playing at Finch Field to capacity crowds.
Current HiTom’s owner Greg Suire said that, with all the talk about High Point’s economic catalyst project, he’s very excited that it’s the HiTom’s home that will be the destination in July for visitors from all over the state.
“Seems like we know a little about catalyst projects ourselves,” Suire said. “We’re just so thrilled for people throughout the state to believe in us and to say, ‘Hey, this is where we want to settle the state champion of North Carolina.’”
Suire said Finch Field was a great venue for the American Legion to hold its tournament since the field has a storied history with former HiToms players such as baseball greats Curt Flood and Eddie Matthews playing there in the past.
The selection also means that the American Legion must have had a good experience in 2018 when it held its tournament for the senior division players there.
John Thomas, the announcer for the HiToms, said that getting two American Legion tournaments in back to back years is a very big deal.
“It’s really unprecedented for that to happen two years in a row with two different tournaments,” Thomas said.
Suire said that, this year, with a younger group of players in the junior division, there’s added excitement.
“The level of play is extremely high because these are traditionally 15- to 16-year-olds, and the other cool dynamic is that – unlike the state tournament with the seniors where most of the players have signed collegiately – these players are all in that recruiting portal, and you’ll see the number of college coaches from throughout the mid-Atlantic region descend upon Thomasville and High Point to watch these guys.”
Jarrod Dunbar, the executive director of the Thomasville Tourism Commission, said the whole community is going to benefit.
“We are veryexcited about this,” Dunbar said.
He said that, during the tournament, Thomasville merchants will hold special events downtown to draw the fans there.
“I know that some of our local businesses downtown appreciate seeing those new customers, those new faces, those people coming in,” he said, adding that, while in the area, the visitors will spend money on a lot more than hotel rooms.
“We know that they are buying food – hopefully they are taking advantage of some of the unique opportunities we have here in town,” he said.
“It’s a huge thing to have these events,” Dunbar said, adding that he’s just happy the area was chosen.
Every bit helps when the two fields are in a battle over mindshare like the two stadiums will be this year. That battle is evident in other ways as well. For instance, Suire was taken aback by some statements from High Point Rockers supporters that suggested their team will have a higher caliber of player than the HiToms. About a month ago, Suire said there was one very easy way to find out which team was best: play against each other. Though Suire publicly challenged the Rockers to a game, the Rockers haven’t taken him up on that offer yet.
“The challenge we issued is still on the table with no response,” Suire said.