By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
The Daytona Beach Sports Council got a second swing at the Homerun Derby and Brawl on the Beach softball tourney at Jackie Robinson Ballpark after a bit of hardball by the new County Council.
Four new members were sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 10, and the council quickly took to split voting. Pat Patterson -- the District 1, DeLand member who returned to the council after a 15-year break -- joined the new County Chair, Jason Davis on the losing side of a vote to give the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce $20,000 to sponsor the softball tourney a second year. Like the first tourney, the second will come with the star power of Yadier "Yadi" Molina, his brothers, and other major league players.
The request passed 5-2. New council members Doug Daniels, District 4, Ormond Beach; and Deborah Denys, District 3, New Smyrna Beach; joined veteran council members Joyce Cusack, Josh Wagner and Patricia Northey in approving the request. Mr. Wagner and Ms. Northey won re-election bids last year.
"The numbers just weren't clicking in my head," Chairman Davis said in a telephone interview after the meeting. "When they couldn't come up with a feasibility study -- that really lost it. I'm trying to be a responsible public servant."
The December softball events featured appearances by Mr. Molina, St. Louis Cardinals' catcher, and other major and minor league players. The county's sports-tourism website, sportsvolusia.com, was one of the sponsors. Winners of the Homerun Derby got to play a game of softball against the major-leaguers in the Brawl on the Beach.
Larry McKinney, president of the chamber, said the Sports Council, which operates through the chamber, was disappointed that it didn't get a big enough turnout of competing teams and spectators to move ahead with a second event. He said short planning and promotion time reduced attendance at the two-weekend event.
"I went to the county to say thank you for sportsvolusia.com being a sponsor," he said in a phone interview after the meeting. "I said, 'However, if you're willing to give $20,000 for (another) sportsvolusia.com sponsorship, we can put it on for a second year.'"
Mr. McKinney said that while attendance was disappointing -- about 1,500 to 2,000 over two weekends -- the first Homerun Derby and Brawl on the Beach did something no one expected. It got the Molina Impact Training facility opened in Volusia.
"What happened is, when they came down for this event they had such a good time, the three Molina brothers, they have decided to open in Port Orange an 8,000-square-foot training facility," Mr. McKinney said. It has three employees and hopes to expand.
That was the hit out of the ballpark for Mr. Wagner.
"It worked," he told fellow council members at the meeting. "It didn't get as many people as we wanted to, but it worked. We get to add a new facility to (sportsvolusia.com). The fact they're making an investment in the community that will bring more people, it's a homerun."
The $20,000 came from money previously budgeted for economic development. Jim Dinneen, county manager, could have approved the expenditure without council approval. Mr. Dinneen told the council he considered the expenditure a policy decision that deserved its attention.
After the meeting, Mr. McKinney said the chamber will use the $20,000 to pay off expenses from the first tournament, so it can donate $23,800 to Mr. Molina's charity, Foundation 4. The foundation's website, foundation-4.com, explains that it helps "those suffering from disease, neglect, poverty and homelessness."
Mr. McKinney said Mr. Molina will be back in town to collect that money.
"The check we're cutting and giving to them, we're going to give to him in Port Orange on Feb. 1," he said.
That'll be at the chamber of commerce's ribbon cutting at Molina Impact Training.
Mr. McKinney said the chamber is confident the tourney will become an annual event drawing thousands to Volusia County. He said the 2012 tourney was put together and advertised on the fly. Not so for 2013.
"I've got the whole year to raise (sponsorship) money, and I think we'll do much better," he said. "I'd like to have 2,400 hundred attend, minimum. If we can get 2,400 and 32 softball teams, I think it'll be good. I think if we hit our numbers this year, (the Molina brothers) will want to make it an annual event. Our ultimate goal is to sell out Jackie Robinson, 4,400 seats."
He said plans are to schedule the 2013 tourney for November, before the holiday seasons begin with Thanksgiving. Tournament schedules will likely be announced by February at daytonabeachbrawl.com.
Mr. Davis said he'll likely attend some games at the tourney, and would accept an invitation to throw the first pitch.
"I'm here to support Volusia County," he said. "I have no animosity toward the situation. It sounds like a fun time."