Cloverleafs help show positive side of Selma

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 4, 2002

Press reports on Selma rarely focus on the positives of Selma.

In the past week, TV media have reported on two child-molestation cases in the area. In last Sunday’s Birmingham News, an in-depth look at Alabama’s Black Belt indicated that Dallas County has the highest crime rate in the state.

But according to one Selma leader, all isn’t so negative about this area.

The Selma Cloverleafs received in-depth coverage on the sports page of the Birmingham News last week. Every day, in newspapers in Baton Rouge, La., and Pensacola, Fla., readers learn about Selma because of sports.

Noopie Cosby, who has taken the reins of the Cloverleafs, has invested more time than anyone in Selma’s fledgling professional sports team. Saturday afternoon, he held two phones in his hand. On one end, he talked with the media; on the other, he set up a promotion to send his baseball players to a civic function in town.

“Just this week, a guy from Birmingham saw the story on our baseball team and came down to watch a couple of games,” Cosby said. “He said he always wanted to be involved in owning a small-town team and we sat there during one of our games and talked.”

Cosby, like many who have watched the growth — and present sputtering — of the Southeastern League, has read the latest stories about the financial troubles of some league teams.

The Montgomery Advertiser has twice written about the Montgomery Wings’ financial struggles. Joe Terry, who helped begin this baseball league, resigned as general manager of the Wings this week because he hasn’t been paid in two months.

“The problems we’re having aren’t new problems,” Cosby said. “They’re not problems we’re trying to hide. We’re just trying to keep this thing together until the end of the season.”

When asked if that will happen, Cosby remained optimistic as always.

“The odds are very high we will survive,” he said.

While Montgomery has its share of problems, Cosby has made sure Selma’s team can make it through three more weeks of a regular season and four days of playoffs. He’s invested his own money. He’s gathered the support of corporate sponsors — which has taken attendance that averaged less than 100 six weeks ago to more than 250 per night now. He’s also put together an ownership group for the Cloverleafs.

The Cloverleafs have paid their players and management on time. The team’s general manager, who took a pay cut from his Miami job to come work in the league, is still around working the press box during games and filling out a Dallas Avenue marquee after games at 10 p.m.

To Cosby, as he has said numerous times, this isn’t about leaving a professional baseball team for one of his children to inherit. Rather, it’s about giving back to Selma.

While much of the work Cosby must do is focused on keeping a positive attitude among his players (and himself), the former state representative has plans beyond the final game of this season.

Because the Cloverleafs provide “positive press” for Selma, he wants to see the league continue for the next five years. At the beginning of September, he plans to meet with members of the league to organize a five-year plan.

“It won’t happen in a year, but we want 24 teams with six teams in each division,” he said. “That’s something we’re going to work on.”

Along with a bigger and stronger league, Cosby says he’ll keep an eye on the positive press for Selma. He plans to use next year’s team as a marketing tool for the entire area. Though details aren’t specific, he wants to include some sort of logo that draws more people to Selma.