By D. Mark Mitchell
Normally the majority of my column focuses on Opelika High School and Opelika Middle School athletics. Each week I try to keep you informed of things you might not read in other forms of media. I will continue to provide this coverage for our loyal readers.
This week though, I decided to write about West Ridge Park. Yes, the “Diamond in the Rough” that our wonderful city oversees.
Last Saturday night Coach Dan Washburn and I watched the Opelika 11- and 12-year-old All-Star team play Auburn in the District Tournament at West Ridge Park.
We sat in lawn chairs in the outfield and watched Opelika win 16-6. I enjoyed watching our kids play and win. Several players are sons of friends.
Yes, the game is and should be the center of attention. But another side is the incredible complex and field hosting the game, West Ridge.
The city’s leaders were wise to purchase the land and build a state-of-the-art facility that benefits the children of Opelika.
West Ridge Park has three entrances, a walking track around the park that is one-mile long with lights so you can walk at night, nine baseball fields, two softball fields and the Miracle Field.
The city of Opelika owns the park, and ESG takes care of the park for the city. Michael Hilyer is the Director of ESG. He and his staff do a terrific job of making sure the park is kept clean, the grounds manicured and the regular upkeep that comes with a complex that includes two playgrounds, five different control buildings and concession stands.
We are blessed to have this facility in Opelika. West Ridge is the home of Opelika Dixie Youth, Opelika Dixie Boys, Opelika Dixie Softball, the Miracle League, Opelika Middle and High School softball teams and the Opelika Big Dawg travel teams.
As the state director of Dixie Boys, I have to travel to numerous parks throughout the state of Alabama. Some of the parks are of the variety “you can’t get there from here,” but somehow I find them.
West Ridge Park is one of the top facilities in Alabama. This is one of many reasons Opelika is THE place to live and raise a family.
If you have not visited West Ridge Park, I invite you to the District 5 Dixie Belles (13-15-year-olds) Softball Tournament tonight, Saturday and Monday at West Ridge. Games are 6 and 8 p.m. The Opelika All-Stars will be playing in the tournament.
The District 5 Dixie Boys District Tournament is July 4-9 at Harrelson Field at West Ridge Park.
The Opelika 14-year-olds team will play at 7 p.m. tonight.
You will be proud to see a top notch facility packed with young folks playing ball.
The Bulldog football team continues to prepare for the season opener August 22 against Carver at Cramton Bowl. The game is one of the “Champions Challenge” games hosted by the AHSAA.
The Dawgs will host a team camp next week. Gulf Shores, Eufaula and Park Crossing will travel to Opelika for two-day camp. Teams will have team camp and two 7-on-7 competitions. The 7-on-7 camp will be held at the Sportsplex.
Opelika will participate in the National Select 7-on-7 Championship at Hoover, July 17-19.
The volleyball team held camp this past week, and the cross country teams continue to train for the fall season.
BACK TO THE DAWG HOUSE FOOTBALL CAMP
The 10th annual “Back to the Dawg House” football camp, sponsored by the Opelika Rotary Club, will be held tomorrow, 9 a.m., at Bulldog Stadium.
The camp is hosted by Opelika Alums SaJason Finley and Will Herring and is for kids in the third through seventh grades.
You can sign up at the Sportsplex today, Friday, June 27, or be at Bulldog Stadium before 9 a.m.
Registration is free and open to any child in the grade range.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for Qantum Radio, Alabama Dixie Boys state director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.