International baseball classic is a home run for businesses - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

International baseball classic is a home run for businesses

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MT. VERNON (WSIL) -- Many businesses in Mt. Vernon and surrounding towns will be greeting more customers over the next several days thanks to some boys of summer. 

Protect Our Nation's Youth (PONY) is holding its International Baseball Classic this weekend. 

Several teams have traveled thousands of miles to spend the weekend in southern Illinois. 

This baseball tournament originated in Mt. Vernon four years ago. 

Chairman of the International Board for PONY Steve Miller said event gets bigger and bigger every year. 

"It's a big deal for a lot of these guys and young kids to play," Miller said. "It's a once in a lifetime chance."

Teams from China, Indonesia, Aruba, Panama and the Philippines made the trip to America to compete with teams from across the area in the baseball classic. 

"We were looking forward to playing baseball in America," players from Indonesia said. "This is our first time."

"I'm excited, I'm really excited," Aruba player Clayton Kalle said. 

Kalle said his mom received a message from his coach asking him to come play in America. 

"I was so happy because it's my first time playing here," Kalle said. 

It's a chance to play America's favorite past time against teams from across the world. 

"I'm excited to play teams from other countries," Herrin player Hudson Miller said. 

Games start Thursday morning at Cusumano Sports Complex in Mt. Vernon. 

There are 16 teams playing from around the world in the tournament and all those visitors cause an economic grand slam for the city. 

"A lot of the tourism bureaus will tell you that on average players spend about $150 to $175 a day while they are here," Miller said. "Our restaurants, our hotels, our sporting goods store all benefit from this."

Miller said at least ten teams are staying in hotels and as far away as Marion. 

"It's really done well for our organization and especially the City of Mt. Vernon and all of southern Illinois," Miller said. 

While this tournament is for kids nine and under, for some players it will feel like the Majors. 

"We're giving away rings to the winner just like the Major League Series Rings," Miller said. 

International players said this is a once in a lifetime chance to step up to the plate in America. 

"For the most important reason, I want to see how it would be to be in an American match," China player Michael Hong said. 

"I'm really excited to play because my dream is to come play here," Kalle said. 

Games start Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Cusumano Sports Complex in Mt. Vernon. 

The championship game will take place Saturday night. 

Click here for the full schedule on the PONY's website. 

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