Warm weather means baseball

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2005

Writing this column on a warm, Wednesday afternoon, my thoughtsturn to the rites of spring…mainly baseball. High school baseballseason starts in February and the Ole Brook Panthers have a leg upon most of their opponents.

Yours truly stopped by Moyer Field to see how the defendingstate champion Panthers were progressing under the direction offield general Randy Spring. To my surprise, the finishing toucheswere being made on a large indoor practice facility, located downthe first base line.

We grinned with excitement while inspecting the new facility.Pleasant satisfaction mirrored the expressions of coaches andplayers alike.

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The prefab building is a large structure; 72 feet in length by50 feet wide, resting on a concrete slab. Certainly, every youngman who has played baseball, dreads the outlook of rain and coldweather during the Mississippi spring.

In the past, a muddy, rain-soaked field would send the Panthershunting for a gymnasium or just canceling practice, period. Now,there are three covered batting cages and two pitcher’s moundsunder roof.

Does it get any better than this?

Coach Spring vividly remembers last season and the dilemma hefaced as the Panthers prepared for the state championship seriesagainst the Pontotoc Warriors. A virtual flood of rain inundatedBrookhaven.

“Two days before the state championship, it rained heavy,” saidSpring. “Every gymnasium in the school system was being used forsome type of function. We couldn’t take batting practice. Ourpitchers couldn’t pitch.”

Fortunately, Spring’s Panthers rebounded from an opening roundloss to Pontotoc and whipped the Warriors two straight games toclaim their first-ever state championship.

Spring and the Brookhaven Diamond Club members made a vow tobuild an indoor practice facility before the 2005 season. Manyhours of volunteer work and plenty of donations from the publichave made the facility a reality.

“Now we have enough room for pitchers and batters to be going atone time,” said Spring. “We won’t miss a beat.”

Brooks Warren serves as Diamond Club president. Ronnie Watson isvice president and Mary Helen Miller is secretary/treasurer.

“We were able to build it for half the price,” Spring pointedout “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Panthers must fill some large shoes

The Panthers finished 30-8 last season. Obviously, there aresome large shoes to fill. Seven of the eight graduated seniorsstarted.

Most Valuable Player Scotty Smith sparkled as a pitcher and beatPontotoc twice in the best-of-three title series. He also playedshortstop.

Brooks Hall starred at shortstop and pitcher. Adam Ogden workedat catcher. Cody Dunaway started at third base. Josh Patrick workedat second base and designated hitter. In the outfield, XavierQualls was in center and W.T. King was in right. Matt Walker was autility player.

On the bright side, Grant McDonnieal returns at first base andcould see some time behind the plate. Darius Perkins returns toleft field and Elliott Warren is back at second base. Brandt Hintonis a veteran at third base and on the mound.

Spring watched his squad go through a series of conditioningexercises yesterday afternoon as a gusting wind blew from the thesouthwest. “Yes, we do have a lot of shoes to fill.”

The Panthers will deal with colder weather for a few days beforeanother welcome warming trend arrives. Their annual Diamond DayHitathon is set for Feb. 12 at Moyer Field. Also planned for thatSaturday is a Kids Clinic plus a red beans & rice lunch platesale.

This is a major fund-raiser for the Diamond Club. Donations willhelp pay for the new practice facility.

Looking ahead, the Panthers kick off their 2005 season Feb. 19,hosting the Wesson Cobras for a Saturday debut. The junior varsitygame starts at 11 a.m., followed by the varsity at 1 p.m.

Earlier Start: The Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege Wolves, under the direction of coach Keith Case, launchtheir baseball season Feb. 9, visiting East Central at Decatur fora 1 p.m. doubleheader. On Feb. 15, the Wolfpack hosts Hinds.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com