Photos by Matt Colville , Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Larry Doleac Baseball Complex at Tatum Park 101 Parkway Blvd Hattiesburg, MS 39401
Year Opened: 2008 Capacity: 5,000
Welcome to Baseburg
The drive from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Hattiesburg is about an hour and a half north on rural Highway 49. As soon as you get to the 'Burg and take the turn onto Hardy Street, the city's major east-west highway, you will see the Southern Miss campus on the right with a giant banner that says, "Welcome to Baseburg" – by 2023 the Hub City nickname was unofficially replaced by Baseburg thanks in part to the city's recent success in the sport. Southern Miss recently finished 2023 with a second consecutive trip to the Super Regionals, with Hattiesburg hosting both tournaments. Though the Golden Eagles came up short both years, the contests brought over 50,000 people to Hattiesburg and did wonders for the city in terms of revenue. Not to be outdone, just down the road William Carey University also hosted the NAIA Super Regionals and advanced to the NAIA World Series, where they finished third in the country in 2023.
Another part of Hattiesburg's baseball success is their Dixie Youth Baseball program, which dates back to 1955. The Dixie Youth World Series is the South's version of the Little League World Series, as Dixie Youth Baseball is played in 12 southeastern states. Hattiesburg Dixie Youth Baseball has won six Major World Series championships, which is more than other Dixie Youth league. DYB is separated into five different age divisions: T-Ball (4-6), Coach Pitch (7-8), Minors (9-10), O-Zone (11-12), and Majors (13-14). In 2023 Hattiesburg hosted the 8U-Coach Pitch Division World Series, which would mark The Burg's third time hosting the World Series (1989, 1998, and 2023), with the 1989 and 1998 series being Majors. The 2023 Series was set up in two divisions; Division I-A is the larger cities in the state while Division I-AA is the smaller cities in each state.
The Series was played at the beautiful Larry Doleac Youth Baseball Complex, which opened in 2008. Located inside Tatum Park, the park includes 23 soccer fields, tennis courts, a disc golf course, four softball fields, and the baseball complex sitting in the southeast corner of the park – Larry Doleac owns a local electrical engineering company.
Food & Beverage 3
The complex features four main fields set up in a quad, with a press box and concession stand located in the middle of the quad; it is the typical layout found at a local rec league complex. There is one main stand open for the tournament called Gateman Grill. The usual selection can be found here, and prices are extremely cheap – sausage dogs, hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, peanuts, and popcorn round out the menu, with the most expensive item being the sausage dog at $3 (hamburgers only cost $2.50). The drinks are where they get you, with all drinks (bottled water included) costing $3; I thought they could have made the bottled water prices a little cheaper since this was the middle of July, and there is no water fountain on property. They did have two misting tents set up, however, in between fields #2 and #4 to keep fans cool – this is also the only place on the property to get decent shade.
They also have a few food trucks set up in between fields #2 and #3; the 24/8 Grill & Catering truck serves fried chicken tenders and catfish baskets, while Nannie Mac's, a popular Hattiesburg eatery, sells tacos, nachos, burgers, and hot dogs. There are also several more food options set up out in Tatum Park by the soccer fields, including a full indoor concession area called The Grill at Tatum on this particular weekend, and they also had a street taco food truck set up on the property.
The Dixie Youth World Series is a four or five-day event that officially kicks off on Thursday with the opening ceremonies – the opening ceremonies are held at Southern Miss baseball’s Pete Taylor Park. All 12 states in the league were represented, with a parade of teams that entered the field Olympic style. The famous Pride of Mississippi marching band was on hand, as well as Southern Miss mascot Seymour. Former MLB All-Star and Southern Miss baseball star Brian Dozier threw out the ceremonial first pitch, while comedian Steve Max entertained the crowd with a unique game of 'Simon Says' with the audience and kids.
The event is run by Hattiesburg Parks and Recreation and Visit Hburg, and they do a great job running the operations of the Tournament. As soon as you arrive you will see the Visit Hburg tent set up with various brochures on the city; Hattiesburg Zoo even had a tent set up with several animals you could touch. You can also tell that Hattiesburg loves capitalizing on the Baseburg nickname – there were several merch tents set up on the grounds selling Baseburg and Dixie Youth shirts. Another cool vendor stand I saw set up was a company called D-Bat selling baseball apparel such as gloves, bats, cleats, etc.; D-Bat is a popular indoor batting cage facility in Hattiesburg, and makes for a fun place to visit.
There is something special about attending an event like this – the look of joy on the boys' faces as they entered the opening ceremonies is something that can't be replaced. The parents and family, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to get here, are just as excited as the boys are. Though these boys are quite young, they are still the best 8-year-old ballplayers in their respective state, so you won't see the kid sitting in the grass in the outfield, or the kid picking his nose when he comes up to bat. Even at 8 years old the kids playing understand the importance of playing in this Tournament; it may be the Dixie Youth World Series, but to these kids and to some of their parents, it may as well be the MLB World Series.
The first games begin at 10 am Friday morning, with 6-inning long games taking place every hour and a half. Division I-A games take place on Fields #1 and #2, while Division I-AA games take place on Fields #3 and #4, with games usually lasting until around 6 or 7 pm each night. The field dimensions of each field are normally 200 feet to dead center, but for the World Series a temporary fence is installed in the outfield to trim the field to 180 feet.
Tatum Park is located on the south side of the city, in an industrial area where there is not a lot to do. Most of the out-of-towners will likely come for the games and then leave to go 10 minutes north into the city. Hattiesburg is a typical college town of about 50,000 people, and you will find many options to keep you busy if in town for the week and you are looking for a break from the games.
Historic downtown Hattiesburg has been seen a revitalization over the years, with many of the abandoned buildings being turned into local businesses – download the Visit Hburg app to view the different walking tours they have here, including an art trail, a HattiesBurger trail featuring popular restaurants in the city, and a historic downtown walking tour. Hattiesburg also has many family-friendly options as well; make sure you check out the Pocket Museum if in downtown. Its location is purposely hidden, as you are supposed to find it by walking around looking for clues; it's hard to explain, but the Pocket Museum is considered Mississippi's tiniest museum and is located in alley near the Saenger Theatre. Down the alley are hundreds of tiny figurines and displays set to a particular theme that changes each month. The Pocket Museum has become a big attraction for all ages, and is not hard to find anymore as you can just look for the line of people coming out of an alley.
Another popular place to visit downtown is The Lucky Rabbit, a huge two building vintage antique store. It’s also hard to explain what this place is, but trust me – it's well worth a visit as it is no ordinary antique store.
On your way back to Tatum Park for more games, or if headed to your hotel room for the night, you'll pass the Hattiesburg Zoo, which also makes a great visit for the family. The Zoo is affordable for the whole family and quite big for a city like Hattiesburg; you can't miss the zoo as you will see the giraffes from the side of the road. The Zoo is also opening a water park scheduled to open in Spring 2024.
You can find plenty of restaurants in Hattiesburg, as well as plenty of shopping, while for hotels there are many chains lining the I-59 exit near Hardy Street.
The cool thing about an event like this is all the different people from out of state it attracts. The 2023 World Series pumped $4 million into the local economy, mostly from players' families who made the trip down. Because this is the best of the best at this level of youth baseball, the baseball parents are into the game from start to finish, so much so you almost forget you are at a kids baseball game. It can even get a bit heated between some of the hardcore parents, as you would expect – most of these more extreme parents sat in the metal bleachers.
The fields are 200 feet but have temporary fencing at 180; a lot of the more relaxed parents were sitting out there in the 20-foot gap between the warning track and temporary fence. All along the outfield fence you will see various tents set up of people mingling and hanging out, almost like a college baseball game. In fact, it was as close to an SEC baseball atmosphere as you can find, and if people could drink beer then they would be drinking out there. You will see 30-40 people from a small town in Alabama standing under Crimson Tide tents in left field, and in right field you would have 30-40 people from a small town in Louisiana mingling under LSU tents. Then you can walk one field over and see Virginia playing Texas and the same thing would be going on in that field; it was cool seeing all the different fanbases all on one site – you could even go up to an outfield tent and strike up a conversation with almost anyone.
Getting to Larry Doleac Youth Baseball Complex at Tatum Park can be kind of difficult if you are not familiar with the area. The Complex is located on Highway 11 just off Highway 49, on the south side of the city away from all the main attractions. If coming from out of town, more than likely your hotel will be closer to Hardy Street/Highway 98 at Exit 65.
Your best option would be to get on I-59 from Hardy Street, then travel south about five miles on the interstate, until you get to Highway 11 at Exit 60. Take this and the park will be right there on the right – Larry Doleac Baseball Complex sits at the very southeast end of the park, so you will have to drive a good bit past the soccer fields until you get to the baseball fields. Once on property you are free to move from field to field, and you can also come and go all day.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets are $10 for the daily pass, which allows you to come and go as you please. You can also purchase the Series Pass for $30, which allows entrance to all the games of the World Series. Counting the opening ceremonies, the tournament could last a total of six days, so you'll be saving $30 by purchasing the Series Pass, and you also get a cool Baseburg lanyard with your purchase.
I enjoyed coming out every day to watch the games; the atmosphere is pretty fun with all different fans from each state bringing their own customs and cultures to Hattiesburg. These are also the best 8-year-old baseball players in their states – these kids have a long way to go, but I guarantee at least a couple of them will make it to the big leagues one day.
Another cool thing they do here is have the state flags of all 12 teams lined up along the outfield fence – the flags of the two states currently playing are in center field next to the American flag, while the other state flags are around it.
The complex and park are also named after some of Hattiesburg's most successful families. Larry Doleac, along with his brother, own an electric engineering company that has been a family-run business here for over 50 years. Larry is also the President of the Hattiesburg Dixie Youth Baseball League, and the uncle of country singer and former Southern Miss baseball star Adam Doleac. Willie Tatum was a former mayor and lumber mill operator, and is the namesake of Hattiesburg's largest park, where the Larry Doleac Baseball Complex is located. Field #1 at the complex is also named Bobby Myrick Field after the former New York Met outfielder, and former Hattiesburg High outfielder.
Another plus for the Hattiesburg Dixie Youth League holding the record for the most Dixie Youth World Series wins; in the 1960s and 70's Hattiesburg also had an intense little league scene, as well as a Dixie Youth League. The only team from Mississippi to ever advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA was the 1977 Hattiesburg little league team – at that time only 8 teams in the world played in the Little League World Series, and the Hub City little league team was one of three teams from the U.S. who played in the tournament, which was won by Taiwan. That team was led by a 12-year-old third baseman named Charlie Hayes, who 19 years later would be playing in the World Series for the Yankees as they beat the Braves in six games to win the 1996 World Series; Charlie is also the father of former Houston Astro and current Pittsburgh Pirate Ke'Bryan Hayes.