CCHS players learn to appreciate their opportunity

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Baseball is a frustrating game. Batters that hit in one-third of their chances are considered successful. Pitchers see a potential strikeout turn into a walk by a margin of less than an inch. Fielders can play a ground ball perfectly only to have it strike a rock and bounce right by them.

So, it’s not uncommon to see players yell and throw equipment in anger or maybe even lose motivation to play. Chilton County High baseball players, though, have enough motivation to last all season even if nothing goes their way.

Coach Josey Shannon took his Tigers, managers included, to Birmingham Children’s Hospital on Feb. 2 to show them how fortunate they are to even have the opportunity strike out or make an error.

The CCHS players spent two hours handing out baseballs, which were provided by Hibbett Sports and Wal-Mart, to patients at the hospital.

On the bus ride north, the team’s seniors—Bradley Cleckler, William Head, Cameron Teel and Justin Veazey—made sure everyone knew it was time for the dugout humor to cease, and the players carried a mature approach into the hospital.

“My guys did a real good job of communicating with them,” Shannon said. “They didn’t try to just hand them a ball and then walk away. They were all on their knees, talking to these kids and making them feel important.

“Not one said they didn’t want to go. I do think some of them were scared. They didn’t know if something they saw was going to upset them.”

College and professional athletes are known to make such trips, but not high schoolers. The patients didn’t mind if none of the players have ever won a College World Series game or signed a multimillion-dollar contract. They were just happy about the attention.

Shannon said his motivation was to bring some joy to some people that could use it, but there was also something for the players to learn.

“He wanted to show us that everybody couldn’t come out and do what we do,” said Veazey, a center fielder. “And that we should appreciate what we can do.”

Shannon said he’s seen a definite difference in the way his players approach practice, and the team could enjoy a better season because of the lessons learned. But even if the trip doesn’t result in wins, the players have already done something worthwhile.

“I’m proud of my guys. If we lose every game I’m going to be proud of them because of the way they treated those kids.”