Back in 1937, the first two Rutherford County natives wrote their names in baseball history. Nip Lipscomb and Don Padgett, who played for 11 years, were the first professional major league baseball players from this county. According to www.baseball-almanac.com, Woody Abernathy made his debut in 1946. Smokey Burgess began his amazing 18 year career in 1949 followed by Garry Hill in 1967 and Gomer Hodge in1971. Most recently, beginning in 2016, our own Houston Astros first baseman, Tyler White, became the source of great pride for our county and a clear indication that Rutherford County is 'doing it right!'
This all-American favorite pass-time is a long tradition that always brings out the best in us. The coaches, all volunteers, spend hours upon hours to keep the love for the game alive and provide the foundation for young kids who dream of major league greatness. They work tirelessly, praising and encouraging the little ones who often are more interested in the bugs they've spotted on the field. They stand in the boxes, calling to the runners, making sure they round the bases in the proper order. Others, who are working with the older kids, are fine tuning skill sets that make it possible for these kids to compete on a higher level by doing all they can to provide the guidance necessary for them to succeed. It's been going on for decades, and probably will for years to come. Whether it's softball, T-Ball or baseball, the desires are the same- to hit the ball over the fence or make that double play for the win... just like Smokey or Tyler.
It seems that everyone gets involved. The town gets busy mowing the grass and preparing the fields for the games. Umpires are cleaning their eye-glasses and sponsors are handing out t-shirts and ball caps. Moms and Dads are juggling busy schedules and grandparents are pulling out their lawn chairs. The whole community comes together, in unison, because it's what we do. We do baseball and we do it right! History confirms it.
Saturday, April 14, the Forest City Little League officially opened their season and young dreams were born anew as kids from across the county stepped up to to the plate with home runs on their minds. The opening ceremony, A Day in the Park, drew large crowds to Summey Park. Todd Coffee, former MLB'er introduced Youth Pastor, Joe Ervin who offered the prayer and former Little League President Denise Melton who sang our National Anthem. Tammy Jones, current Forest City Little League President, threw out the first pitch in honor of her brother, Charles Riley, a 20 year little league coach who passed away unexpectedly two weeks after throwing out the first pitch last year. Teams lined up for photographs and the first pitches were thrown on a beautiful spring day.
From now until June, twenty teams of kids ranging in ages from 4 to 16 will be adjusting their hats, tapping the home plate with their bats and stealing bases to the cheers of family and friends. The long love affair with baseball began again and who knows... maybe the next Smokey Burgess, Dot Richardson or Tyler White took to the field for the first time.