ll-stars won with ‘a lot of heart’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2004

A full year away from one’s teammates can be enough to tinker with the chemistry and balance of even the most cohesive units.

The reuniting of such group, however, also could play the opposite role in bringing the team closer than it had been prior to the original separation.

After being apart for one year, the 15-16-year-old Selma Dixie All-Stars reunited for a season none of them will soon forget. The team won the District 4 tournament and put together a solid run through the state tournament, before dropping an 8-5 decision to defending champ Auburn University-Montgomery in the title game.

Email newsletter signup

The squad was a talented bunch of youngsters capable of playing any position on the field. However, what made this team so successful wasn’t the players’ ability to adapt to different playing spots, but to each other.

“This is a great group of kids,” Massey said. “They’ve got great attitudes, they work hard and they love being around each other. When you get a group of 15- and 16-year-old kids together and nobody fusses and fights, that speaks volumes about them.”

That cohesiveness, Massey said, began when the team was assembled several years ago. Most of the members of this year’s squad played together as members of the 7-8-year-olds Little Meadowview League.

Massey brought the group together under his tutilage when they boys were age 13.

“That year, they went swimming at my house,” Massey said. “We had a cookout and they ate watermelon together – they just bonded well together.”

Not to say that there haven’t been a few disagreements. As in any competitive situation, emotions sometimes ran high and there were a few disagreements. Other times, players had an occasional tendency to get down on themselves when they made an error or fell behind in a game.

It was at that point, catcher Ben Callaway said, that their coach took over.

“Coach Massey was great at motivating us,” Callaway said. “He would get in our faces and tell us when we were doing something wrong. When he cooled off, he came back and told us how to do things right.

“Coach Massey is in my top three best baseball coaches of all-time,” Callaway added. “He was a coach you wanted to win for.”

One of many players who was happy to be back with his buddies was shortstop/first baseman Blake South. After being named to a different All-Star squad in 2003, South was back playing on the same field with guys he teamed with in the Little Meadowview League as a seven-year-old.

“Last year just didn’t feel like a team. This year I felt like I was back with my real team,” South said. “This was the chemistry of a real team. Everybody got along and nobody talked bad in the dugout.

“We were all friends and we all played for the team,” South added. “This team was all about heart and chemistry.”

Although he was a member of last year’s All-Star team, Callaway said that he realized this season was special when he saw his old friend take the mound for his first start.

“Seeing Blake pitch again,” Callaway said, “it felt like the 13-14-year-old All-Stars all over again. It brought back a lot of memories.

“This team never gave up,” Callaway added. “We weren’t the most talented team, but we definitely had more heart than the other teams we faced. That’s how we won a lot of our games. We won with a lot of heart.”