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Clanton’s Dixie Youth Baseball all-stars are batting 1.000 in state tournaments they’ve hosted since 1990.
That’s right, 1-for-1 counts.
In 1990, Clanton’s 11- and 12-year-old all-stars hosted and won the Dixie Youth state tournament. A group of 9- and 10-year-olds will try to do the same thing.
While a championship for Clanton isn’t certain even with such favorable precedent, one thing is for sure: the players will fail to understand the significance of the event.
“They’re 9 and 10; they don’t get too excited about anything,” said Jeff Price, coach of this year’s all-stars.
The same was true of the kids who played for a state championship 18 years ago.
‘We’re going to win this dang state tournament’
The 1990 11- and 12-year-old all-stars won despite long-shot odds. Even if they had been the favorite coming into the game, which they were not, the all-stars’ chances were dealt a blow with a 7-4 loss to Glencoe to start the tournament.
But Clanton rebounded to take wins over Enterprise (9-2), Pleasant Grove (5-4) and Phenix City (5-3).
Clanton relied on the three-headed pitching monster of Robert Smitherman, Jimmy Desmond and Brett Mims. Each pitcher would throw two innings each game.
27-Jeff Price, manager
24-Scottie Watts, coach
15-Tim Gilliland, coach
“This probably wasn’t the most talented team we had,” coach Troy Mims said despite the three star pitchers and a solid defense, “but they just kept winning.”
Coach Troy Mims, though, might have won the most significant victory other than the actual championship game. Before the Phenix City game, it became obvious that a Clanton win would result in a three-way tie among one-loss teams and force a drawing to see which team would sit out while the other two played an elimination game.
“I told the players whenever we got down to it, I said, ‘Boys, if we’ll beat this team here, I’ll draw the bye,’” Mims said.
Clanton won the game, and Mims drew the bye. “You’d have thought we had already won the thing by the way that dugout was carrying on.”
The momentum would never leave the host team’s side. At one point, Mims recalls looking to assistant Herbert Latham and saying, “Herbert, we’re going to win this dang state tournament.”
And they did, with an 8-5 decision over Phenix City.
Home might be sweet
Hosting the state tournament has its advantages and disadvantages because the host team doesn’t play in any of the all-star tournaments leading up to the state tournament.
“You don’t get to play along the way, but you get home-field advantage,” Price said. “This team we’re playing has won two tournaments, so they’re bringing a trophy case and we haven’t even played a game. They’ve had a long summer to kind of get to know each other,” Price said.
“However they do in the tournament, I think they’ll remember the experience.”
For pictures of the Clanton all-stars, visit our Spotted site
The disparity between the number of games the Clanton team has played (or hasn’t played) and the number of games their opponents have under their belts can go both ways.
Do those games provide experience or wear a team down?
Price conceded it will be nice not to have to travel across the state to play.
The Clanton players will sleep in their own beds this weekend and next week while the visiting players will sleep in local hotels, which are almost all full.
All-stars and their families account for 43 of the 53 rooms this weekend at Best Western, and the story is similar at almost all other hotels contacted. At Guesthouse, 60 of the 74 rooms are occupied by tournament-goers.
“It seems like it’s going to be a pretty big deal,” Best Western employee Renea Roper said.
Home runs and pancakes
Tournament festivities begin at 3 p.m. today with a home run derby. One player from each team will participate. Clanton’s entry will be catcher Colby Ramsey.
The players, coaches and families will have a meal at 5:30 p.m. at Chilton County High School. This event will also include appearances by Hoover High School coach Rick Davis and Auburn University at Montgomery coach Q.V. Lowe in addition to other entertainment.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, a pancake breakfast will be held at Liberty Hill Baptist Church for Dixie Youth officials, umpires, host committee members and spouses. A credentials meeting will follow the breakfast.
Tickets will cost $6 for those 12 and older on the first day ($1 will go to the Dixie Youth Baseball scholarship) and will cost $5 every other day.
Clanton’s first game will come against the District 7 champion, Municipal (Mobile) National, at 8 p.m. Saturday on Field A.
Games will be played on two fields, and the tournament will last through July 24.
Price said volunteers are needed to help with several aspects of the tournament.
Anyone interested should call tournament director Rick Russell at 755-4051.
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