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T-shirt inspiration

Brooks Smith was buried with deep sadness in March. But hisspirit was climbing upward, soaring with hope, joy and eternalvictory in Heaven.Brooks Smith was buried with deep sadness inMarch.

Smith spent 10 years on this planet before he was killed in anATV accident last spring. In that short time, Smith impacted thelives of family and friends with his joyful, competitivespirit.

He is best remembered by his friends and former teammates inLincoln County Dixie Youth Baseball. They paid tribute to him thisseason and the Bane Drugs team was the most visible benefactor.

In a gesture of love and honor, Smith was memorialized oncustom-designed Parent T-Shirts. They were worn by the Bane Drugsparents, coaches and players. His name was printed on the rightsleeve. His No. 9 jersey number was placed on a silhouette baseballfigure located on the back, surrounded by the names of team membersand coaches.

Lori Herring, a close friend and neighbor of the Smiths, wasinstrumental in creating the T-shirt logos.

“Brooks was our neighbor. He and my son (Joshua) have beenfriends since they started soccer together years ago.”

Sports, particularly baseball, formed a common bond for theyoungsters who both were students at West Lincoln. “Brooks lovedbaseball,” said Mrs. Herring. “He lived for baseball.”

Talking about the T-shirt plan, She said, “Brooks had friends onevery team out there. We wanted him to be a part of it.”

The T-shirts finally arrived and were presented to the parentsand players on May 6 which would have been Brooks’ 10thbirthday.

The shirts made their presence felt at an opportune time. BaneDrugs, a Dixie Youth Major League team, was struggling. Thedruggists had a 2-2 record.

Suddenly the team took a dramatic turn for the better. Theremarkable turnaround saw them winning 12 straight games, includingthe season finale tournament.

“I heard some of the players talking about us having angels inthe outfield,” said Mrs. Herring. “Whenever we made a big play.

“We were honored to wear his name and have his number on theback of our shirts. We wanted to win it for him.”

His father, Mark Smith, had worn No. 9. Naturally, Brooks wantedto follow in his dad’s footsteps.

He was an all-star last summer. His dream was to pitch becausehis dad was a pitcher.

At the conclusion of this season’s league tournaments, Smith wasrecognized for his all-star accomplishments and friendships.

Coaches Remember Smith

Paul Jackson, head coach for the Paul Jackson & Son team,remembered Smith’s potential. “Brooks was a great player. He was onmy team last year. He was a No. 1 pick.”

Jackson recalled a story about Smith’s first starting assignmenton the mound. “We pitched Brooks for one of our startingpitchers.”

As a 9-year-old, Smith pitched 6 full innings in his rookiedebut. Jackson said Smith threw 67 pitches and it was a 4-0 shutoutin six innings.

“It was one of the best games I’ve ever seen a 9-year-oldpitch,” said Jackson. “He was special.”

Clint Bane, a Bane Drugs coach, knew Smith well. He had playedon his Positive Pest Control team three years ago.

Bane said the T-shirts had a profound effect on the young teamwhen they were worn. “We didn’t lose a game after that. We ran thetable after we got those T-shirts.”

Ironically, the shirts arrived on Brooks’ birthday. “He was aloved kid,” said Bane. “He had a real good attitude plus he was aheckuva player.”

According to Bane, the shirts are a popular item. “Somenon-parents asked for those jerseys, too.

“Brooks had a cute little smile and cute hairdo,” said Bane. “Myson, Patton, still wears the Brooks hairdo today. It was a big dealfor him.”

Herring said a local hair sylist receives many requests for aspecial haircut, “just like Brooks.”

Players Got Spiritual Boost

Bane Drugs head coach the Rev. Chad Yarborough, said his playersbecame more aware of a spiritual presence in their lives because ofSmith. His parents, Mark and Kathy Smith, attended most of theirgames.

“We would pray for Brooks’ mom and dad,” said Yarborough. “Wealso would pray for players on other teams who were either sick orinjured.”

Yarborough, who pastors Friendship Baptist Church, said his teamhas a Bible verse which they recite and memorize. This season theinspirational scripture came from Ephesians 6:10 “Be strong in theLord and His mighty power.”

Earlier this year, Herring had launched a fundraiser for theSmith family. Raffled off was a Benelli shotgun.

“We miss Brooks dearly,” said Herring. “He meant so much to us.I know God had a plan for him.”

Asked about the community and league support her family hasreceived, Mrs. Smith said, “We are overwhelmed by it. People havebeen very good to us.”

As the all-stars begin tournament play later this week, many ofthe players are putting No. 9 on their game caps. It’s another wayto honor and remember the popular youngster.