Capital gains

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 17, 2006

Selma all-star teams will try to advance in Montgomery

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

It has been more than 30 years since Selma has won a Dixie Boys World Series.

Even though this year’s series is still a long way off, the city has doubled its chances of going back by sending two all-star teams to the sub-state playoffs this weekend.

Selma has not won a World Series since 1972, although it has sent teams back since then.

The 14-year-old team is going into the tournament in Montgomery as an underdog, but that could just as easily work for them as against them.

“We’ve got to get past Southeast Montgomery in our opening game. They’re one of the favorites,” assistant coach Robert Massey said. “They’re playing at home, and they went to the World Series last year. Then there’s Prattville and the American (Montgomery) team. But that could also mean no one is looking for us, so it could play into our hands.”

The 13-year-old team is also looked upon with an outside shot of winning and advancing to the state tournament.

But the team is riding a wave of momentum after going undefeated in the district tournament. Dominant blowouts and come-from-behind thrillers have shown the team is capable of winning in a variety of ways.

“The thing that impresses me most about them is they work so hard,” Coach Jeff Ratcliffe said. “Usually, kids this age haven’t developed that kind of work ethic. Another thing that stands out is that they’re very fast. We have a lot of team speed, and we’re hitting the ball well.”

There is jubilation now, but things got off to a scary start for the 14-year-olds. Defensive mistakes very nearly cost them the opportunity to advance.

A lot of that had to do with team chemistry that had yet to develop.

“That’s what happens when you take people that play different positions all year,” Massey said. “We had three or four guys that thought they were shortstops. The guy that’s playing second base for us now normally plays the outfield. Trying to get people in the right spot was the biggest thing.

“But Johnny Franklin, the kids voted him team captain, and things got a lot better after that. He did a lot of little things for us.”

As their defense got better, so did their hitting, and the team cruised to a 14-0 win in the final game.

That’s one of the most important things in playing in these types of tournaments – not peaking and flattening out at the wrong time.

“The 13-year-olds trailed the whole first game and came back and won in the bottom of the seventh,” Selma Parks and Recreation Director Elton Reece said. “They got better with each game, and that’s the key. A lot of times, the district tournament will be just as tough as the state tournament.”

Normally, coaches have kids that are playing on their teams. But that’s not the case with the assistants on the younger Dixie Boys squad.

“Mike Irwin, who owns Four Seams Baseball, has been a real big help to us just with his knowledge and love of the game,” Ratcliffe said. “Britt Mott pitched on the last World Series team, and he’s working with the pitchers, and Terry Waters has been a big help to us as well. All three of these guys have no sons on the team, and they volunteer their time.”

Ratcliffe’s team has a tough row to hoe, too, facing up with Auburn Saturday morning. After that, Opelika and Daphne still stand in the way.

But he said his boys are working team like a group that belongs in the championship.

“The World Series this year is going to be played in a little town between Dallas and Fort Worth,” Ratcliffe said. “That’s where they have their minds set – to go to Dallas and play in the World Series.”