Flags fly high inMillington, Tenn.
MILLINGTON, Tenn. – American flags are everywhere in “FlagCity.” As the Memorial Day festivities approach, even more starsand stripes fill the muggy skies. Millington loves baseball andthey love the players who have made the long journey to thisMemphis suburb.
In the NJCAA Division II World Series, eight teams have arrivedfor Saturday’s opening round and they have stars in their eyes.Each team is deep and talented. They all have championshipambitions.
The Co-Lin Wolves held a brief practice Friday afternoon at apractice field adjacent to USA Stadium. Dark clouds filled thewestern sky and a severe thunderstorm ended the practice sessionsooner than expected.
The journey from Wesson to Millington required four and a halfhours of steady driving. James Hall drove the Co-Lin team bus whileChad Coon piloted the company car.
Five of the tournament teams are staying at the Admirality Suiteand Lodge. Talk about working overtime, consider the number oftowels, wash cloths, sheets and pillow cases which will be washedthis week.
On Friday night, the teams were treated to a barbeque banquet,held at the large VFW lodge located less than a mile from themotel. Each team was introduced by tournament director John Daigleand the crowd of 400-plus applauded with appreciation.
Daigle once was a star pitcher for University High School inBaton Rouge. He lived and breathed the purple and gold of LSU. Hehad been promised a full scholarship to play for the Tigers. Asscholarship signing time arrived, Daigle was asked to split hisscholarship and live at home. The other half of his scholarshipwould go to a player from Florida.
One of seven children, Daigle realized he couldn’t continue tolive at home and still play for LSU. An American Legion playerduring the summer months, Daigle pondered his future while heworked for the LSU Agriculture Department growing corn.
Part of his responsibility was to trim the husks with a sharpparing knife. One day the knife slipped and cut him between thethumb and and forefinger on his pitching hand. It required twostitches. Daigle was scheduled to pitch that night. He decided togo ahead and try pitching despite the soreness in his hand.
As luck would have it, the baseball coach from Gulf CoastCommunity College in Panama City, Fla., happened to be driving downthe interstate and saw the lights from the playing field. The coachgot there late but saw enough of Daigle to offer him ascholarship.
Daigle said that night changed his life. He was offered a fullscholarship to Gulf Coast. “That opportunity to play junior collegebaseball changed my life. I met my wife at school in PanamaCity.”
Kyle Rote, Jr. former professional soccer player, was thebanquet’s guest speaker. He encouraged the players to live godlylives. “You have a choice of living a godly life or an ungodlylife. You can’ ride the fence.”
Rote reminded the people how many professional athletes “havebecome parole models instead of role models.”
Looking at the pitfalls of being a star professional athlete,Rote pointed at Super Bowl quarterbacks Joe Montana, Terry Bradshawand Kenny “Snake” Stabler. “They have nine Super Bowl rings andnine wedding rings. They have lost the most precious thing inlife.”
According to Rote, friends are most important if you believe theBible. “Scripture says if you choose wise people for friends, youwill be wise. If you choose fools for friends, you will become afool. Choose your friends wisely.”
Co-Lin coach Keith Case is confident his Wolves will make a goodshowing in the World Series. In the last three weeks, they defeatedthree of the NJCAA’s Top Ten teams.
Itawamba, ranked No. 1 in the final poll of season, lost toCo-Lin in the state tournament. No. 6 St. Catharine College losttwice to the Wolves in the Central District playoffs last week. No.10 St. Louis Community College at Forest Park lost two of threemeetings with Co-Lin in the Central District.
Co-Lin was mentioned in the voting but fell just short of makingthe Top Ten. Iowa Central (50-8), Co-Lin’s first round opponent inthe World Series, is ranked No. 2 in the poll.
So how will Co-Lin do in this gathering of baseball’s elite?
It is the first-ever appearance by the Wolves so many folks areanxious to see what happens.
Hinds Community College beat Forest Park in last year’s Centraldistrict playoffs. The Eagles finished the season in strong fashionand placed fourth in the 1999 World Series.
Kishwaukee (Ill.) won last year’s World Series,