Thursday, May 4, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Emphasis on ‘the team’

Teams succeed only when they exemplify teamwork.

Selfishness cannot exist on a championship team.

A week and a half ago my son Andy and I spent much of a Saturday traveling to and from Caledonia to cover the Byhalia Indians in the Class 3A state baseball playoffs.

It was sort of a last-minute decision to go, and I’m so glad we made the trip.

It was my second time to photograph the Indians this season, and this one was special. Byhalia knocked off Corinth 8-2 to advance to the second round for the first time in the school’s history.

The game itself and the celebration were a photographer’s dream.

I hung out in the Indians’ dugout most of the game. I felt like I was just one of the team, and they treated me that way. It was a fun bunch to be around.

One Byhalia supporter remarked, “This is a great group of guys.”

I agree.

When I arrived, Coach Bubba Brown briefed me a bit on the opening round, four-team tournament. In the first two games, both Byhalia wins, Corey Deberry was perfect at the plate. He was batting a thousand.

After the six-run victory over Corinth, he finished nine-of-10 in the three-day event, meaning he batted .900.

Wow! That should be reason to brag.

No. Remember, this is a team.

“I could not have done it without my team,” Deberry told me while accepting hugs and high fives. “It was a team thing.”

Then I moved on to the other Corey, Corey Parker. He had pitched the last two innings – striking out four of the six batters he faced. In a 3-2 victory over Winona two days earlier, he pitched eight innings and struck out 18.

“My focus was on pitching strikes, and I relied on my team to back me up,” Parker said.

Notice – his comments also included that word, team.

Lots of things impressed me that Saturday about the Byhalia Indians. But the most impressive thing was the “team thing.”

The players on the bench were not sitting. They were up by the dugout rail, supporting their teammates. In the last inning, they held up “number one” signs and anxiously awaited the last out so they could run onto the field and celebrate – with their team.

“Everyone is contributing,” Coach Brown told me.

This past weekend, the Indians made it a step further. They turned back Independence in two straight games. Now they’re in the third round of the playoffs. It’s Byhalia versus Senatobia for the North Half title. The winner of the series goes for a state crown next.

These 2005 Indians have put Byhalia baseball on the map. Congratulations! And keep up the good (team) work.

I covered another big sports event Friday morning. One of the best basketball players in Holly Springs High School history, Kenny Dawkins, signed with Mississippi Valley State University.

If you missed seeing Kenny on the basketball court in high school, you missed a treat. If you have not met Kenny the person, you’ve missed a bigger treat.

His mom was smiling at times and a bit teary-eyed, too, Friday morning, and well she should be. Her son will soon be going away to college.

But she knows him better than anyone.

“Most of all, I’m proud to have a son who is unselfish,” said Wanda Dawkins Richmond. “It’s not about making himself shine; it’s about making the team shine.”

The Byhalia baseball Indians and the Holly High basketball Hawks – two prime examples of “the team thing.”

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