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All-star baseball has advantages, disadvantages

A dear lady called this scribe the other day and wanted todiscuss something extremely important. Her grandson was a member ofthe Lincoln County National League All-Star team that had justparticipated in the Dixie Youth Baseball AA Coach/Pitch South StateTournament at Laurel.

For the record, the Lincoln Countians had whipped Gautier in theopening round before they encountered powerhouses Petal andPascagoula in back-to-back outings. They were outscored 25-9 and28-2 respectively, smashing state championship dreams in theprocess.

Grandma discovered that Petal and Pascagoula had travel teams whichplayed together before, after and during the Dixie Youth season.Their extra games gave them much more experience in batting andfielding. Obviously, it helped them outclass the opposition.

“It just doesn’t seem fair,” said the devoted grandma. “Our teamgot to practice together about two weeks and these others have beenplaying together all year.”

Is that legal?

For sure, all good sports want a level playing field. Many coachesand teams will work overtime to gain an advantage, no matter howsmall.

Weldon Smith, Lincoln County Youth Sports president andcommissioner, has encountered his share of difficult situationsduring his many years at the helm of summer league baseball.All-star activity often brings out the best and sometimes the worstin parents and fans.

According to Smith, travel or select teams are not illegal. Thebottom line is the players must be members of a Dixie YouthBaseball franchise and play on a league team during the regularseason to be eligible for all-star selection.

In other words, the youngsters can belong to a travel/select teamon weekends or days when the league isn’t playing. In a weekendtournament, they could play 6 to 8 games, as long as their luck andendurance holds up.

Any ambitious coach or group of parents can form a select team andtravel to different weekend tournaments. All it requires is timeand money. The key is not interfering with league play or scheduledgames.

For example, Petal, Hattiesburg and Oak Grove are in closeproximity. They may not have more than seven teams in each leaguebut there can be several weekend travel teams formed.

Then they wind up playing either together or on opposing teamsTuesday and Thursday nights during league play. Before and afterthe season, these same all-stars might be playing together on aselect team.

Once the all-star teams are selected, players are expected to givecomplete devotion to their local dream team, at least until theyare eliminated from the playoffs.

“A player must follow the written rules within the Dixie Youthbook,” said Smith. “A league can allow a player to play select teamand league ball. Some teams might swap players.”

Smith said, “In Dixie Youth all-stars program, there are nostrictly select teams that have been playing togetheryear-round.”

Smith recalled a recent development in Adams County. Natchez hadstormed through the Dixie Youth 11s District Tournament, blowingmost of its opponents off the field.

Enter USSSA which plays baseball like the high school, college andprofessional teams. There are fewer restrictive rules regarding theformation of tournament teams.

“Natchez just had a situation where they won DYB District,” saidSmith. “They then lost their top three players to a USSSA StateTournament team.”

OUCH!

“We try to protect our program from that,” said Smith.

Two years ago, Brookhaven/Lincoln County had a team win the statetitle and travel to the Dixie Boys 14s World Series in GrandPrairie, Texas. It was a great accomplishment for the locallads.

Smith said this year’s Dixie Boys Baseball 13-14s had a satisfyingseason. The four teams were mainly composed of junior high/varsityplayers from area high schools.

Next year, several more high school teams are expected toparticipate in 13-14 at Cap Sam Brown Field in Exchange Club Park.Plans are to organize a Pre-Majors, age 15-16; and Dixie Majors,age 17-19; league, too.

“We hope to pull the schools together so they will stay with us,”said Smith. “The schools that played with us this year were verypleased with what we did this summer.”

There are additional plans to host some clinics/camps and charge aminimal fee to cover expenses.

Lincoln County Youth Sports is a non-profit organization with a12-member board and files taxes each year. Work continues on abaseball/softball complex on property next to the Lincoln CountyMulti-Use Facility.

Smith said the 6-field complex could provide a field for a girlsfastpitch softball league, too. He said LCYS plans to launch a $250scholarship program at each high school in the county. Recipientswon’t have to play in the league to be eligible.

Certainly, the LCYS wants to benefit the entire community.

Ready for some football?

The 59th Annual Bernard Blackwell High School All-Star FootballGame is tonight at Mississippi College in Clinton. Representingthis area are Coach Tucker Peavey and center Darion Smith ofBrookhaven; Coach Tommy Clopton and running back Roy Williams ofWesson; linebacker Julius Magee of Lawrence County and quarterbackPercy Turner and defensive back Cornelius Smith of JeffersonCounty.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. in Hale-Robinson Stadium.

The DAILY LEADER’s annual Gridiron questionnaires have beenmailed. Football coaches are asked to fill out the questionnairesand return them as soon as possible. The information will becompiled for publication in the DL’s annual Gridiron Preview.

Coach David Virgil of Crystal Spring was the first coach to returnthe information. New head coach Wayne Rogers of Enterprise wasrunner-up.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com