Flash forward to 31 years later on a beautiful late summer Trigg County Saturday. What some would consider a minor miracle in sports took place at the local recreation complex. Let me explain. Six men’s church softball teams gathered for a benefit softball tournament to raise money for “The Way,” Trigg County’s new Christian youth center. As a matter of fact, over $1,000 dollars was raised.
Now, let me get back to that miracle thing I mentioned earlier. The six teams in the tournament included Oak Grove No. 1 and No. 2, New Light, New Hope, Crossroads Fellowship and Cadiz Baptist. As the tournament wound down, Oak Grove and Cadiz Baptist wound up in the finals. Cadiz Baptist was undefeated coming out of the winner’s bracket, having beaten Oak Grove once already during the day. Oak Grove fought their way out of the loser’s bracket and would have to beat Cadiz Baptist two straight games to be the champions. Well, the first game was a slaughter. Oak Grove defeated Cadiz Baptist 26-3 to set up the decisive championship game. Somehow, and I can’t really explain it, Cadiz Baptist regrouped, played a much better game and the final game score in the championship was ... not of importance.
Do you know why? Who won and lost is not the miracle I am talking about here. In this day and age, where everybody thinks they have to stack their softball team or golf scramble team with the absolute best mega players, this was a refreshing change. Guys were actually playing for the pure fun and fellowship of it. There weren’t any hot bats that someone had made illegal by shaving or corking them. Nobody was using softballs that had been put in the microwave to make them go farther. The miracle is the fact that Scotty Hampton and Oak Grove Baptist hosted a men’s softball tournament where sportsmanship from a bygone era was exhibited like I hadn’t seen for many a decade. Just read on and I will give you some examples of the old school sportsmanship that was demonstrated.
Example No. 1 was Oak Grove itself. They had 20 players show up for their two teams. Instead of trying to stack one team with all the best players, they each drew either a number 1 or a number 2 out of a hat to determine what team they were on. Despite this method, six of the seven-softball Hampton family somehow drew a number 1 out of the hat.
Another example was the fact that all teams shared the same bats. If a player brought his own bat, he had to let the other team use it.
How about this: Three of Cadiz Baptist’s outfielders did not even have their own glove. The other team’s right center fielder and right fielder would leave their gloves lying in the field for our guys to pick up and use. EDITORS NOTE: When I finally found my glove the night before the tournament, the strings connecting the web had dry rotted and I had to borrow Mike McGill’s glove. I just figured out why I caught a few – the glove still thought the sure handed McGill was the actual user.
More examples of sportsmanship: There weren’t any fights, no ejections; heck, there weren’t even any arguments at all. The umpires were all volunteers. Guys like Scotty, Ronnie and Kevin Hampton, Nick Marlowe, Jason and David Wease, Josh Green, Mike Lane, Benny Francis, Timmy and Bobby Hendricks, Josh Gray and Pastor/Slugger Paxton Redd manned the umpiring chores.
Yet another thing that was cool about this tournament was that there was nothing fancy about it. How about the trainer for instance? You see, there wasn’t one. The closest thing to a trainer was Zack Lane, who went to Food Giant and fetched three jars of pickle juice to help his dad Mike fight off some severe leg cramps. Way to gut it out, Mike.
The tournament was also a great time for family at the old ballpark, and it wasn’t only for the Hamptons. How about New Light Church, with six of the Hendricks family in the line-up? J.L. Hendricks, at age 64, played catcher for New Light. His four sons Timmy, Bobby, Hollis and Pee Wee, all played, as well as his grandson, Austin. Austin even served as J.L.’s designated runner. I asked J.L. what he thought about the tournament. He said, “It was just so much fun to play again and play with my sons and even a grandson. The best thing about it was the fact that a young soldier and his family had been coming to our church pretty regularly. He was able to play and fellowship with us, and the next morning, his family joined the church. The fellowship was just outstanding.”
New Hope won the prize for having the oldest player as 66-year-old Ronnie Clark played some outfield for their team. Ronnie said, “I had a lot of fun, and would definitely do it again. I even made it through without being too sore.” While on the age theme, it was interesting to note that Cadiz Baptist leftfielder and left center fielder, an unnamed slightly graying man and Chuck Rockhold, totaled 103 years of age. That’s pretty impressive, until you find out that Oak Grove’s pitcher and catcher combo, Donnie and Ronnie Hampton, combined for 114 years of age.
Continuing with the sportsmanship theme, I think Cadiz Baptist’s slugging 3rd baseman Josh Gray said it best: “This tournament was not so competitive that it turned you off the game. It was more about just fun and fellowship with fellow Christians on your team and the team you were playing. I think several people that had never really met beyond saying hello bonded during the tournament, and that is good for all the churches.”
You know what, a thought keeps reoccurring to me as I write. The key to all the above good sportsmanship and fellowship was really so simple. How could I have missed it? It was this: Each game started with the two teams together praying at home plate and ended with the two teams shaking hands. Enough said!
OT: Thanks to Carl Heckmann and crew for manning the concession stand.
Double OT: Anyone have any extra Icy Hot or muscle relaxers they want to get rid of? Send them my way. I am currently in the state of a full body charley horse! How about some old Soltice Quick Rub ... they still make that stuff? Didn’t Porter Wagoner used to advertise it on the Grand Ole Opry, or am I mistaken?
Triple OT: Thanks to Smith Broadbent and Jerry Lawrence for the kinds words on the column.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to email@example.com.