Thursday, July 26, 2007
Leaving the office Friday afternoon I stopped to talk to South Center Street neighbor B.J. Thomas, owner of B.J.’s Cleaners.
He was getting ready to drive to Columbus to play in a big men’s softball tournament.
I mentioned my days long ago of playing in similar tournaments in Columbus – district and state and so forth.
The conversation brought back many good memories.
After my high school sports career, slow-pitch softball became a huge part of my life – two or three nights a week and every weekend during the spring and summer months and sometimes even the fall.
A couple of weeks ago while visiting the church in Hamilton, Ala., I talked with some of the men there and we relived some of our successes while fielding one of the best church softball teams in the state.
A couple of months ago one of my best friends, James Cantrell, called. He was the shortstop and I was the third baseman during some of our earliest softball days playing for a fine man and coach, Gene Bailey. In high school, James and I competed against each other, in baseball and basketball, he at Hackleburg and me at Hamilton.
After moving to Mississippi in 1986, I hooked up with a group of softball crazies in Fulton and Itawamba County and played independent softball with them for, I guess, five years.
I took Pam to see a movie on our first date. Our second date was spent at the softball field. And several dates thereafter were at ball fields across north Mississippi, plus in other states like Alabama and Arkansas.
Softball days were loads of fun, plus softball was big business then. It’s even bigger business today, be it youth or adult, or youth baseball.
Places like Southaven, Cordova, Tenn., and New Albany, just to name a few, feature relatively new, several-field complexes and host tournaments – big ones – basically every weekend. Teams come from all over – spending money for food, gas, hotel rooms and so on and so forth. Tupelo and Oxford are building new complexes.
I was reading the Laurel Leader-Call online last week. Laurel opened a beautiful new sports complex while we were there eight years ago. The City of Laurel is making a push to host the Dixie Youth World Series.
According to Laurel officials, Muscle Shoals, Ala., hosted the same tournament in 2004, and statistics show the series brought in around $4 million to that city.
Southaven is hosting the Dizzy Dean Softball World Series this weekend, with Marshall County teams scheduled to participate.
It was great seeing a couple of county teams hosting invitational tournaments this past weekend – one in Holly Springs at Sam Coopwood Park and another in Potts Camp at the town park.
Mary Clay Brooks, who writes a society column for The South Reporter, helped coordinate the 10-year-old tournament in Holly Springs. She sent me this e-mail.
“The tournament was a raging success and was a great day of softball for all of those involved from parents to players to umpires. Special thanks goes out to the Holly Springs buildings and grounds crew who prepared the fields for the games, even moving the bases on one field to make it regulation for softball. Also, a big thank-you to the umpires who came out to call the games. They did a great job and there was, for the first time, no arguing over calls because they were fair all the way down the line. The girls are looking forward to the World Series this week in Southaven and hoping next year to host the second annual Fastpitch Frenzy.”
Our county Dizzy Dean League, thanks in large part to Doug and Janice Wagg, is a great asset. It unites children and parents from across the county. A dream of mine is a new, modern baseball/softball complex in Marshall County, to accommodate our league and to bring in out-of-towners and dollars.
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