‘It’s the revival,’: Coca-Cola Classic returns with baseball double header

Published 3:10 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

SUMMIT — Co-Lin Community College and Southwest Mississippi Community College will play in a battle of community pride and playoff position next Wednesday in a double header. The double header will be played in the return of the Coca-Cola Classic presented by Powerade for the first time since COVID-19 cut the 2020 season short. 

Adam Northam, the Southwest Broadcasting “Sports Guy,” said the Coca-Cola Classic initially started in 2005. At one point, the rivalry series grew to include softball. Northam said the games would start Wednesday, April 17, at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Southwest Mississippi Community College. He was the emcee for a press conference hyping up the rivalry Thursday. 

“It’s the revival, I’m calling it. We are here to celebrate baseball,” Northam said. “It is not complicated. It is a quick and easy way to promote our community colleges and this rivalry, convert fans and cheer and support the athletes as a community.” 

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Robbie Hamilton ran the classic for 16 years before COVID ended the streak of Coca-Cola classics. Retirements and new faces allowed for the rivalry series to get lost in the fog. Northam said his wife Carrie Northam asked why they weren’t doing the classic and they worked to bring it back. 

Historically, Coca-Cola has donated $35,000 to donate to the baseball programs. Northam said they hope to bring back the softball teams next year. 

Co-Lin’s baseball team brought a wooden bat, the trophy of the rivalry, into the press conference. There is no official name for the trophy right now other than “the bat.” 

Barney Albritton represented the Coca-Cola bottling company in McComb at the press conference. He said he knew the group of guys who started the classic. 

“It started with an idea and they threw it away. They came up with a baseball idea, they put Southwest on one corner and Co-Lin on the other and threw it away,” Albritton said. “They developed it slowly and it came into what we are doing today. COVID made it tough for all of us. The classic made us a better community. It is a revival. It is coming back.” 

Albritton thanked the institutions of Co-Lin Community College and Southwest Mississippi Community College for having the interest to get back into playing the classic. He added he has watched the game of baseball nearly his entire life and always wants to see more. 

“Baseball is great for our area and all of our communities and our town. It is good for all of us,” he said. 

The friendly competition between Co-Lin and Southwest can be best displayed through the way the programs broke bread together. Coaches from Co-Lin and Southwest talked baseball and life at lunch following the press conference. 

Albritton mentioned the pride the coaches take in winning the trophy. The community colleges are good for employment in the area too, he said. 

Co-Lin president Dewayne Middleton took to the podium next. He played basketball at Co-Lin Community College and understands the rivalry with Southwest all too well. 

In his first year as president, Middleton said he has seen a young group of coaches and a great team work hard. Assistant coaches at Co-Lin confirmed Middleton’s claim that he spent time in the weight room with the baseball team lifting weights. They added he will run a mile on the track at Co-Lin too. 

“I look forward to this event and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Middleton said. “As a former basketball player, Southwest has always been a rivalry. As a former little league coach, I enjoy baseball and I enjoy watching our guys and seeing them work in the mornings.” 

Southwest President Steve Bishop thanked the crowd of players, coaches, media and athletic department staff for celebrating the revival of the Coca-Cola Classic. He welcomed everyone on behalf of Southwest. 

“We have a long history of competition with Co-Lin. We also value the friendship and professionalism by both teams,” Bishop said. “We look forward to even more competition and next fall when we gather again. The Mississippi Community College system is the best system in the entire country. We are both right at the top of that group. Those who came before us had a vision of what these colleges could be like. Not only is the system very strong and respected, the athletics within this state and conference are very strong. We think events like this will draw positive attention right here.” 

Bishop added nothing could be possible without the support of the boards of trustees at both institutions and the community. He thanked Coca-Cola for continuing to support the programs. 

Community colleges like Southwest and Co-Lin allow student-athletes an opportunity to play and get an education, he said. 

“We give them a bright future and they can come back home and live right here,” Bishop said. “I look forward to the game and we look forward to this event.”