Published 5:00 am Monday, July 7, 2003
It has been an annual rite of summer for the Duane Allredfamily. There’s baseball, lots of baseball in their lives,ultimately climaxed with all-star baseball. For 21 baseball-filledsummers, Duane has coached youth baseball, adding three sons,Kelly, Trey and Bradley, to his rosters along the way. That makesbaseball a family affair, much more priceless than diamonds.
Starting in 1979 with a T-Ball League team, Allred has coachedover 300 games. His record, 202 wins and 96 losses, isexceptional.
Recalling his first summer (1979) of coaching, Allred was a20-year-old junior in college, just home from Delta StateUniversity. He was sitting in the bleachers watching a T-Ball (age5-6) game. To his surprise, he would be coaching the Rebels intheir next game, offered a position by league president CarrollCrow.
“When I got home, Carroll Crow called me and asked if I wouldcoach the team. I said, ‘They already have a coach.’ He said, ‘No,he just quit.”’
Thus started a long, volunteer coaching career. Allred graduatedfrom Delta State with a degree in general business. He marriedcollege sweetheart Lynda Rutledge of Crenshaw and they settled inBrookhaven to start a family of their own.
Coaching his own sons has been a privilege and a blessing.
“You really do it (coaching) to be out there with your own kidsbut you also want to make a difference in the lives of other kids.You want to create a positive atmosphere.”
As his children grew, Allred moved up the coaching leagueladder. He was an assistant coach for two years with Les Bumgarner,helping Charlie Nelms Ford to back-to-back Dixie Youth Major Leaguechampionships in 1985-86.
The last 10 years have been spent in the Dixie Boys League,reserved for 13 and 14-year-old players. Kelly, his oldest son, isa 19-year-old sophomore catcher on the Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege team. Trey, 16, and Bradley, 14, both pitchers and firstbasemen, are members of the Brookhaven Academy team.
Allred’s New York Life squad has won three straight Dixie BoysLeague titles, going 15-0 during the latest regular season. Treyand Kelly helped coach the team. Bradley earned all-star status ona 14-year-old dream team his father is coaching, too.
According to the elder Allred, baseball has seen tremendoustransformation since 1979. “The teaching and mechanics have changeda lot. What I’ve done the last six years is go to high schoolbaseball practices and listen to the coaches. I try to learn all Ican.”
Allred said he always tried to recruit some recent high schoolgraduates to help coach the younger teams. “You try to surroundyourself with good players and coaches.”
The 44-year-old Allred is the son of Clifton and Betty Allred.Growing up with his two brothers, Keith and Lee, Duane playedsummer league baseball and other sports. “I was too small to playhigh school baseball.”
His father, a policeman working the night shift in Brookhaven,also drove school buses, including the BHS team bus. Duane remainedclose to athletics and worked two years as an athletic trainer atDelta State when the Statesmen were under the direction of BooFerris, going to the World Series.
Practice In April
In Dixie Boys Baseball, practice usually begins in early Aprilafter the annual player draft. Allred said he asks for common senseand spiritual guidance when selecting players for his team.
“I try to pick players by position, so you don’t wind up withfive first baseman and three catchers. You always need goodpitchers.
“I also ask the Lord to give me the kids I need and the kids Ican help make a difference in their lives during the summer, win orlose.”
A deacon at Easthaven Baptist Church, Allred is active in thecommunity. He’s a former Lions Club president.
Asked about players, Allred said, “I’ve seen a lot of differentsituations. In all my years of coaching, I’ve never had a parentproblem on any of my teams.”
Allred said he tries to treat the players equally, regardless oftheir athletic ability. “I always would rotate my players everyballgame so they would to start at least half the games during theseason. It’s no fun sitting on the bench all the time and gettingput in the game for just one inning.”
When he was growing up, Allred played summer league baseball forJ.D. Thames, Ray Stokes, Paul Case and James Hall. The memories aregood.
“(Coaches) all had consistency,” said Allred. “They practiced ona consistent basis. They didn’t juggle the lineup every game. Youknew what they expected of you.”
Allred said he has coached over 200 boys and the first girl toever make all-star in Brookhaven, Micki Nations, a 9-year-oldB-Minor League player.
He sincerely believes in sportsmanship and enjoying the game.”Kids are competitive and they want to win. Some are more intensethan others. I try to teach them to play hard. I also try to teachthem that God has given them a special talent to play baseball.Some kids who are crippled or in wheelchairs would love to be outthere playing baseball.”
Allred has a team prayer before and after every game. “The lastcouple of years some of the kids would even pray when I asked for avolunteer.”
Baseball At Home
For the last 11 years, Allred has maintained a batting cage andpitching machine in his backyard. Besides his own children,neighbors and team members often take advantage of thefacility.
“This is a great way to spend time with your sons. You arespending time together.”
Allred recalled a humorous incident when he was coaching aT-Ball team eight years ago. The rain had saturated the field andthe game started late, about 9:30 p.m.
“Zach Ray was catching for me behind the plate and Chris Falveyhad just hit a triple off the wall,” said Allred. “I called atimeout to huddle on the mound with the team because we weregetting whipped.
“Zach is covered with mud and sweat from head to toe. The firstthing, Zach asks, ‘Coach, are we still going to Dairy Queen?’
“That really put things in perspective,” Allred laughed. “I toldZach, ‘It’s three minutes until 11 and Dairy Queen is going to beclosed.’ We were getting beat badly but the kids still wanted to goto Dairy Queen.”
After the all-star experience this month, he plans to retirefrom coaching. The Allreds are planning a vacation trip to see someMajor League baseball games in the Chicago and Minneapolis area. Asa long-range goal, Duane would like to take his family to everyMajor League stadium to watch a game.