From the Sidelines: Supporting Demopolis baseball is rooting for city

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 4, 2009

It is officially the dead of summer, at least as far as sports are concerned. Major League Baseball is spiraling toward the All-Star Break. NFL training camps have yet to open. College football practices have yet to kick into full swing. The NBA has entered free agency. NASCAR looks toward The Chase and the NHL looks to see if anyone is paying attention. Worry not National Hockey League, no one is.

It is truly a difficult time for the sporting community nationwide. However, here in Demopolis, we are granted an annual reprieve from the boredom that is early July.

We have the customary buzz surrounding our city’s all-star baseball teams to populate the sports pages and conversations.

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As reported earlier this week, the 10U and 12U teams advanced through district play and on to the state level. That means Demopolis will have four teams competing in state tournaments next weekend.

What cannot be overstated is how important these teams are to the city. They represent the ever-growing baseball tradition that is Demopolis. Many of the young men on these teams will ultimately converge in the same place, Demopolis High School.

It seems that is an aspect we often lose in the hoopla that is youth sports. The experiences these young men have now will directly affect who they are as players and as people five years from now.

They will learn from both their successes and their failures and be shaped by their responses to each. Some will leave the game after middle school. Some during high school. Others may never play beyond their senior year. Still others could go the way of Andy Phillips, Jason Smith and — most recently — Devin Goodwin and play the game at the professional level.

Regardless of which category each player falls into, the charge is on us as a city and a community to show them all the support we can muster now, five years from now and on down the line.

Youth sports — and perhaps baseball most of all — have the capacity to teach structure, discipline, character and teamwork like few other things can. In short, they can provide a desirable path to becoming quality people.

So what responsibility does a community like Demopolis have? That answer may be purely subjective. Clearly the city has provided the children the top-notch facilities and tremendous local leagues in which to compete. So what more is there?

That all comes down to perspective. It seems to me that encouragement is the primary thing that must be constant in order to cultivate quality young people.

It is on us, whether we have children or grandchildren on the teams or not, to take the opportunities to visit the ballpark on game days or at least offer a validating word to players we see around town.

Sound corny, goofy and cheesy? Maybe. But there is no way to accurately measure just how much of a difference such positive reinforcement can make on one young person, one team and one community.