CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The long wait for a Far East tournament is over for DODDS-Pacific high school baseball, softball and track and field athletes.

Officials announced Thursday the three sports have been added to the Pacific’s activities calendar as Far East tournament sports for the current school year.

Dates and sites have not been determined, but the events should take place in late April and late May, DODDS-Pacific spokesman Charly Hoff said. Hoff expected to have those details nailed down and announced early next month.

“So much needs to be worked out and determined,” he said. “But it’s going to happen. It’s not a matter of if, but where and when.”

DODDS announced the action to its 12 Pacific schools in an e-mail Thursday. The e-mail also said three non-athletic activities would be added but didn’t elaborate.

The closest thing any of the three sports had to a Far East tournament was the Kanto Invitational Baseball Tournament; the DODDS-Japan Softball Tournament; and track and field’s Mike Petty Invitational on Okinawa and Kanto Invitational.

Among other things that need to be ironed out, Hoff said, are whether the events will be segregated by large and small school, whether international schools will be invited and how long each tournament will run.

Hoff also indicated that in their first year, the tournaments might be smaller than others that have been around longer.

“It may not be the full scale that we see down the line,” Hoff said. “But it certainly gives us the opportunity to set the stage going forward. By the first or second week of February, we should know more.”

Hoff said airfare savings realized from using local vendors instead of government travel agencies to ticket students going to the fall Far East tournaments in tennis, volleyball, cross country and football was the main reason the spring sports were put on the calendar.

DODDS said the system resulted in a 51 percent savings from 2008, or more than $235,000, all of which was “reinvested back into student activities,” with more savings expected, Hoff said.

New DODDS-Pacific director Diana Ohman indicated in a December interview with Stripes that those sports would be added by the 2010-11 school year, but the timetable was accelerated as the issue was further discussed, Hoff said.

“She was very clear about … she wanted to do it right, be careful in the planning,” Hoff said. He added that he didn’t think Ohman, Far East Athletics Coordinator Don Hobbs and the rest of the DODDS staff would “press ahead if [they] didn’t think [they] were confident in securing facilities and handling logistics.”

Reaction around the Pacific was immediate.

“It feels like the end of a long marathon,” said Charles Burns of Kubasaki. He’s coached track and field there for 20 years, fathered the Mike Petty Meet starting in 2003 and had “asked, begged, pleaded” DODDS-Pacific for those 20 years to add track to the FEAC calendar.

“It gives those athletes a chance to stand out. Now, on their résumé, they can say, ‘Far East champion,’ ” Burns said.

Zama American athletics director Ed Fogell said he spent most of the day answering e-mails from coaches throughout the region once the announcement was made.

“It’s really cool. The kids are fired up,” Fogell said. “You should see the kids. When we told them, they were jumping out of their seats, shouting, ‘Yeah! This is awesome!’ ”

One former softball coach said baseball, softball and track now stand to benefit from a bigger pool of athletes, many of whom chose soccer simply because it meant a trip to a Far East tournament.

“Now, softball has the draw,” said Ken Walter, who coached Daegu American the last four years. “The kids are excited.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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