Local Business Steps Up To The Plate As Tournament Sponsor

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Payson Jack in the Box co-owners Bruce and Susie Haught have agreed to pick up part of the tab for the Second Annual Gracie Haught Classic high school softball tournament.

"We are happy to be teaming with Jack in the Box," tournament director Charlene Hunt said. "I contacted Bruce and he was excited to be the 2006 corporate sponsor."

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The Gracie Haught Classic will provide Lady Longhorn softball players the opportunity to compete this spring against teams they might not see during the course of the regular season.

Adding the fast food giant to the sponsorship list was crucial mostly because putting on a 10-team tournament, as the classic is, requires substantial funding.

"The expenses for this type of tournament are formidable," Hunt said. "It will cost us $1,800 for officials and around $500 for game balls.

"So without a corporate sponsor, we would be struggling financially."

With Jack in the Box on board, Hunt continues to search for other sponsors, saying they are needed to host a hospitality room and snack bar.

"I always have my hand out when it comes to this tournament," she said.

Hunt has long been passionate about building the Classic into one of the finest high school competitions in Arizona, saying the event is a way of honoring the memory of 3-year-old Gracie, who was killed Feb. 6, 2004 in a tragic accident in Star Valley.

At the time of Gracie's death, her mother, Bobbie Joe Haught, was the Lady Longhorns' junior varsity softball coach and the young girl was a frequent visitor to practice and games.

Following the toddler's death, coaches at Payson High met to organize the memorial tournament.

"We wanted to honor her family and all that Bobbie Jo had done for the program," former coach Will Dunman said. "It was our way of showing our respect for Gracie and the family."

For the upcoming tournament, Hunt -- a longtime local softball player and coach who doubles as a town Parks and Rec recreation specialist -- had hoped to field a 16-team tournament.

For that to occur, the two new all-weather fields at Rumsey Park would have to be available for tournament play March 24 and 25.

"We had no guarantee the fields would be completed," Hunt said.

Without the two new fields, the fray will remain a 10-team tournament as it was last year when it was rained out after the first day of play.

Set to compete along with the Lady Horns are Prescott, Apache Junction, Many Farms, Florence, Benson, Desert Edge, Queen Creek, Blue Ridge and Chandler Basha.

The tournament will feature pool play on the opening day and a single elimination tournament the second. Each team is guaranteed a minimum of five games.

For more information about the tournament or to become a sponsor, call Hunt at (928) 474-5242, ext. 260.

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