From the Sidelines: Tigers still on prowl

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Demopolis High Tigers&8217; area championship victory a week ago marked the culmination of a season-long effort. If this were 2007, that accomplishment might have served as the icing on the cake of a tumultuous season.

But in 2008, the post-championship atmosphere surrounding the clubhouse indicates differently. The knock on the Tigers for some time has been that they do not know how to win. That criticism has hovered over them like a cloudy day long enough that some of them may have even started to believe it.

In fact, many of the 2008 team entered the season with the goal of retaining the area championship and then gracefully bowing out in the first round of the playoffs. To them, that would have constituted a successful season. It would have maintained the status quo.

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It wasn&8217;t their fault. It was just part of the culture which had begun to permeate Demopolis baseball.

In all honesty, those criticisms rained down from that metaphorical cloudy day seemed justified &8212; especially in the early part of the season. The Tigers&8217; 0-6 start did little dispatch the murmurs that this group didn&8217;t have what it took. The Tigers then plodded their way to 3-11 before something clicked.

Now, 14 games later, the team has quietly worked its way to a 12-16 record. While not an overwhelming testament to their ability, the record is a marked improvement from the slow start.

And somewhere along the way, the criticisms seem to have subsided. The Tigers are an imperfect team, but despite their shortcomings, the team has rallied. They must consistently produce at the plate and cut down on fielding errors to go deep into the playoffs.

But anyone who fails to recognize the difference between this team and the one that wore the DHS uniforms during those early season struggles doesn&8217;t know baseball, doesn&8217;t know winners.

Even though they may not fully understand it yet, the Demopolis Tigers are winners. As DHS coach Ben Ramer puts it, the team isn&8217;t &8220;world beaters.&8221; But they have continually found a way to overcome their flaws and get their job done.

Did they beat 5A&8217;s top team Bibb County last week? No. But they very well could have. With the exception of a well-honed 6A machine called Mountain Brook, the Tigers have been in every game down the stretch. They have had opportunities to win and through their failures have learned how to capitalize on them.

So while the Tigers may not smoke anybody in the playoffs, it&8217;d be a safe bet that they will make some noise if they will give in and let confidence and desire wear Demopolis blue.

The next indicator of just how much the culture has changed will come Friday night in Demopolis when the Tigers host Eufaula. I&8217;m not a gambling man, but I&8217;d be willing to bet that no matter what the weather looks like, there won&8217;t be many clouds hanging around the stadium that day.

Jeremy D. Smith is sports editor at The Times. E-mail him at