A few months after having its summer tournament canceled due a conflict involving the tennis courts at Jackson City Park, the Jackson Underground Dodgeball League will hold its fourth annual JUDL Invitational tournament Saturday.
And nobody is going to stop it this time.
JUDL's annual Summer Slam tournament was canceled in late August after the Jackson Board of Alderman decided to ban dodgeball on the upper tennis courts in the Jackson City Park. The board was concerned about potential damage to the newly refurbished courts.
The dodgeballers then moved their weekly Friday night pickup games to the lower tennis courts in the park, which featured no surrounding fence, causing frequent stoppages in play.
JUDL, determined to find a well-equipped home again, worked out an agreement with the city on using the two tennis courts in Jackson's Litz Park, where the tournament will be held this weekend, weather permitting.
"We wrote letters and got members of the community behind us," JUDL co-founder/co-director Josh Tomlin said Tuesday. "We worked with the city and the park board, and they've used our advice" about the renovation of the Litz Park tennis courts.
"We're happy to be working together in hopes of increasing the longevity of this dodgeball league," Tomlin added. "This is our new home, and we're excited."
What Tomlin refers to as the "all-purpose" courts at Litz Park, which do not have boundary lines yet, are not entirely rebuilt. But Tomlin doesn't seem too concerned with the condition of JUDL's new home, which will take on the same nickname -- "The Cage" -- as the upper courts in the city park.
"Technically, they're not done yet," Tomlin said of the new courts. "We've never even played on them before, which is kind of cool because no one will have an advantage.
"If we have to get up there with street chalk, we'll have lines."
The new courts will be christened this weekend, which marks the four-year anniversary of the league's founding. Tomlin said it will undoubtedly be the largest JUDL tournament in its four-year history. He expects about 30 teams to participate, with players coming from as far away as Columbia, St. Louis and Springfield as well as Mississippi and Illinois.
"They're coming from all over," said Tomlin, a 23-year-old Jackson native. "Not only from those places but from everywhere around here -- Cape, Jackson, Perryville, Oran, Chaffee, Sikeston. It's great that we get teams from the little towns."
Due to time restraints, the competition will be set up as a single-elimination, bracket-style tournament. Same-day registration will last from 10 to 11:45 a.m., and the games will begin at 12:30 p.m. The event also will include food, drink, music and raffles.
"We're trying to gear it more towards an event-type thing," Tomlin said. "We're going to get some bleachers so people can sit and watch."
Tomlin said JUDL takes pride in being a not-for-profit organization and open for anyone of any age who simply wants to play for fun.
"There's no registration fee," he said. "We don't believe in charging people for fun. We get a few local businesses to donate, but really it doesn't take a whole lot of money to run the tournament.
"You don't have to be athletic or in great shape or buff or any of that stuff. Some of the best players that come out to play are fat, lazy college guys. We pride ourselves in that we don't restrict ages. There will be middle-school-aged kids there as well as 40- to 45-year-olds. We had a team last year that was almost drawing Social Security, and they were awesome."
Tomlin said that JUDL is considering a dodgeball competition (with registration fees) in April or May as a fundraising event for charities.
"Maybe we can help people by having fun," he said. "It may not help a lot, but it will be better than nothing. I've always been into helping people, and if you can do some good, it's your responsibility to do it."
Tomlin's team won the tournament in 2003, but Vulgar Display of Power -- which primarily consists of Cape Girardeau residents -- has claimed the last two JUDL Invitational titles.
"They're my pick," Tomlin said. "There's nothing that leads me to believe that they won't win."
With the anticipation of the biggest tournament ever, Tomlin and the other JUDL officials will have their hands full this weekend.
"Some people are concerned that it's going to be too big," Tomlin said, "but this event will happen. We will not be stopped again. We will have this tournament."
For tournament registration or more information on the JUDL Invitational and other JUDL events, visit www.judl.net.