ON THE MARK
D. MARK MITCHELL
Opelika hosted the 2022 Alabama Dixie Boys Baseball (DBB) State Tournament at West Ridge Park last weekend. Ten teams representing their city and league gathered Friday night for opening ceremony and first round of games.
As the state director over DBB for ages 13 to 19, I oversee the tournament and make sure all teams’ credentials are correct, games are played in order and if rain occurs, the games which must be rescheduled. Opening ceremonies is another item that must be planned by the state director.
Friday’s opening ceremony involved several community members including: Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, Opelika City Council President Eddie Smith, Auburn Mayor Ron Anders, ESG Team-Opelika President Michael Hilyer, First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Jeff Meyers, Minister of Music Bruce Hill, AO Tourism’s Anthony Terling, Opelika Parks & Recreation Athletic Director Missy Martin and Auburn University baseball coach Butch Thompson.
Each guest made comments; Meyers gave the invocation; Hill sang the national anthem; Fuller, Smith and Anders welcomed fans; and Thompson was the guest speaker.
I met Thompson shortly after he was named as Auburn’s head baseball coach. He made a trip to iHeartRadio station to be a guest on my morning sports show, On the Mark. The three-hour show starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 9 a.m. Thompson had to get up early and drive to the Orthopaedic Clinic Studio, where he arrived punctually. He made it clear when the interview was set up that time was not a factor and it was important for him to speak to local Auburn fans and baseball lovers. We have remained friends since that day, and Thompson is a regular guest during baseball season. The DBB State Tournament was a perfect setting for Thompson to be our guest speaker during opening ceremonies. I reached out to Thompson after the season ended. I told him what was going on and asked if he would be a part of opening ceremonies. Coach quickly replied, “Absolutely! What time do I need to be at the park?” This was not shocking to me; that’s his nature, helping kids.
Thompson is coming off another successful season, guiding the Tigers to the World Series in Omaha. Thompson’s speech resonated with everyone in attendance. He spoke about playing baseball as a child and what his father taught him about baseball and life. The tough losses and the good wins. It was inspiring and made everyone –– players and fans –– think about life and baseball. Fuller summed up the speech with one word: powerful.
While Thompson was speaking at West Ridge Park in Opelika, over 300 young players were at Plainsman Park participating in his camp. Yes, Thompson left his own camp to speak to 10 teams made up of 13- and 14-year- olds. Auburn University is blessed to have Thompson leading its baseball program. He is one incredible person, father, coach and friend.
I appreciate everyone that was a part of the opening ceremony. Each person took time out of their schedule to attend and play a part in the ceremony.
As the Alabama DBB state director, I am proud to see the support from my friends, Fuller and Anders, my pastor, music minister, Smith, Hilyer, Terling and city officials who gathered last Friday night to give their time for the 10 teams playing the state tournament.
The tournament finished late Sunday. Dothan won the 13U State and Auburn won the 14U State. Each will represent Alabama at the DBB world series in Sterlington, Louisiana, on July 22.
D. Mark Mitchell is the sports director at iHeartMedia, host of “On the Mark” Fox Sports the Game 910-1310, co-chair of the Auburn-Opelika Sports Council, chairman of the Super 7 and Dixie Boys Baseball state director.