CHARLESTON -- The Charleston Squirrels nutbaseball.com WOODFEST serves as the unofficial beginning of the summer baseball season.
With many local teams set to be on hand, they will have the opportunity to, once again, play the game with wooden bats.
"It's real baseball," tournament director and Squirrels head coach Michael Minner said. "With wood it makes you bunt, hit and run and it puts a premium on pitching. The kids enjoy it because it's something different.
"I wish everyone played with wood. It changes the game."
The Squirrels, Sikeston Legion Post 114, Chaffee, Dunklin County, Poplar Bluff and Jackson's Sr. Babe Ruth squad will all be in attendance to see who has the best swing with the lumber.
Minner knows the teams that have been invited to play at Hillhouse Park all bring something different to the field.
"Poplar Bluff is usually pretty good and Dunklin County, on paper, looks like the Yankees," Minner said. "We feel like we're pretty decent and Sikeston is probably going to be better this year. Then you have Chaffee and Jackson, who also looks good on paper, too.
"We bring in some good teams and this year is no different."
Today and Friday will consist of pool play to determine the bracket for Saturday and Sunday. The Red pool consists of Charleston, Sikeston and Jackson, while the Gold pool consists of Dunklin County, Poplar Bluff and Chaffee.
With it being the first tournament of the summer in the area, it gives coaches like Minner a chance to see what might be in store for the rest of the season. Especially with emphasis placed on pitching and having it take a solid at-bat to get solid contact of a pitch using the wood.
"It's kind of our first gage of what's going on," said Minner. "We get a good read of the kids we have. You don't fist balls into right field with a wood bat.
"It takes some men to swing a wood bat."
The first game of WOODFEST will be played today at 4 p.m. with Chaffee taking on Poplar Bluff. Charleston and Jackson are to follow at 7 p.m. Games will continue through the weekend until Sunday at 2 p.m. when the championship game is scheduled to be played.
"With wood bats you just don't ever know what will happen and we expect a good weekend of it," Minner said. "We'll have good BBQ, good, cold drinks and the lights will be on so, we'd love to see people come out to Hillhouse Park and have a hooting time."
For any additional information, visit www.nutsbaseball.com.