Embedded scribe learns about team

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2005

To put it mildly, the last three weeks have been a blur. By theway, what day is it?

I was always fascinated by the term, “embedded reporter.” Thatmoniker became famous at the start of the war in Iraq. Journalistsactually traveled with military convoys. They delivered vividlylive reports from the front lines.

Certainly, it was impressive and downright dangerous, too. Irespect these courageous adventurers.

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In a different venue, yours truly was embedded with theCopiah-Lincoln Community College baseball team. We rode the teambus to St. Catharine, Ky., three weeks ago for the Southeast SuperRegional. Because there was no press box available, we sat in thedugout with the team during each game.

It was an enlightening experience. The shade of the dugout keptme from suffering severe sunburn and dehydration.

Co-Lin baseball coach Keith Case smiled and told me I woulddiscover the true emotional side of a baseball team from mylawnchair in the dugout. He was right.

I found myself pulling for the Wolves, living and dying witheach pitch. A large bag of sunflower seeds rested on a shelf nearthe batting helmets in the dugout. Most of the players would pour ahandful of seeds and put them in their mouth between innings.Naturally, I did the same.

While keeping my scorebook and taking notes, I would spit thecracked seeds between pitches, just like the players. Take me outto the ballgame.

We saw a wide range of emotions in the dugout. Anger,frustration, joy, celebration, depression, and lots of mutualencouragement. Even some humor.

The term, team chemistry, so often heard when discussing asuccessful athletic team, was clearly evident with the Co-Linsquad. Like a Wolfpack, the players rallied around each other. Theywere an army of one. They drew strength from each other.

Alan Case and Blake Byrd, Co-Lin’s freshman team mangers, aremore precious than gold. They are reliable, pleasant encouragers.Case keeps a play-by-play baseball book of each game on a laptopcomputer.

Between pitches and cheers, Case would take three steps to thecomputer and punch in the pitch, either a ball, strike or hit.After the game, he provided a printed boxscore and individual statsfor each game.

Byrd and Case stayed busy washing uniforms, keeping track ofequipment, hauling ice chests and being the go-fors. They got theice water and cups, passed out Powerade jugs and Snicker candy barsto the players. They often slept on the bus, during the journeybetween the motel and the playing field.

Obviously, Case and Byrd played high school baseball and sharedtheir knowledge during games. They also led the cheers in thedugout. “Mister Tom, I want you to hear you cheer loud in thisgame,” said Case, smiling with encouragement.

Co-Lin enjoyed Cinderella campaign

Co-Lin’s Cinderella season continued in Kentucky. The Wolveswere one strike away from elimination but they rallied for threeruns with two out in the top of the ninth to beat the host Patriotsin the championship game.

After a few days of vacation, the trip to the NJCAA Division IIWorld Series began last Friday morning with a 7 o’clock departurefrom the Co-Lin campus. Millington, Tenn. was a 5-hour journey,about half the distance to Kentucky.

With only 16 healthy players on the roster, Co-Lin didremarkably well in the World Series. The Wolves lost a tough 3-1opener to Elgin (Ill.) and then rallied to beat Brookdale (N.J.) in10 innings and Chesapeake 16-15 in an energy-sapping 4-hourmarathon.

Tuesday’s loss to Parkland (Ill.) eliminated the weary Wolves.They received a plaque for placing fourth in the Series. Thatmatched the 2000 Co-Lin squad’s impressive finish.

A large number of parents, family members and devoted fansfollowed the Wolves to Kentucky and Tennessee. Support like that isspecial.

Coach Case and his team showed lots of class and character. Hewatched over them like a loving father. Last Sunday morning, he leda devotion in the motel’s conference room, sharing his deepfeelings for each of them and reading from the Book of Psalms.

Co-Lin president Dr. Howell Garner also spoke to the team andtold them how blessed they were. Certainly, it was a special timein their lives. They were part of the Co-Lin family, something eachteam member would carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Personally, the pleasant memory will remain with me forever.

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