Letter to the editor expresses love for Coach Reece

Published 6:23 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dear editor,

I grew up in Marion, Alabama about a 25-minute car ride west of Selma. My summer baseball options in Marion ended when I was 14 years old as Marion’s leagues topped out at that age. I came to Selma to play. This would have been 1973.

I did not know Coach Reece at the time. That quickly changed. For the next four years I played on Dairy Fresh, which was one of the four teams in the “Dixie Senior League” which at the time was for kids ages 15 to 18. Coach Reece, of course, coached Hohenberg where he conveniently got all of his good Selma High School players so he could coach them through the summer as well! Coach Reece always coached the All Star team, and I had the distinct privilege of being a part of those teams for the next four years. I must say I learned more baseball from Coach Reece in those four years than from four years of college ball.  He taught a lot of little things that I had never learned. One example was pick-off plays. We had pick-off plays for every situation and for every base. I remember distinctly Coach Reece saying that “This play may not work but one time in a year, but that one time may win a ballgame.” I can’t begin to tell you how many times during those four years of All Star games one of those pick-off plays we worked on so hard won a ballgame for us. And they were great years. “Selma baseball” was VERY good in those days —  as good as any around — and that was in large part due to Elton Reece.

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My first summer in 1973 I didn’t turn 16 until July. In August we hosted and won the Dixie Senior World Series, and I am proud to have my name on that championship plaque at the entrance to Block Park even till today. The next year we won the District and ran the table in the State tournament only to lose in the bottom of the last inning in the State championship game.  The next year we won the District, won the State and finished third in the World Series at Mississippi State University. My last year in 1976 we won the District, ran the table in the State and got beat in the championship game.

As most folks know, Coach Reece was a tremendous athlete in his own right. He was an All American at Livingston University and could hit a baseball a “country mile.” Often times after practice he’d get one of us to pitch to him — seems like it was me a lot — and he’d hit ball after ball into the night and into the rodeo pen beyond the centerfield fences at Bloch Park.

Coach Reece took a liking to me and me to him. What I can’t fathom seeing in his obituary is that he was only 67 years old. In my mind, quickly doing the math, that means the first year I played in Selma as a very young 16-year-old, he was ONLY 26 years old; significantly younger than my two sons are today. He seemed like a grizzled veteran, and it is unfathomable to think that he was only 26 years old. Coach Reece gave me the opportunity to be a part of four wonderful summers in Selma, so much so that I consider Selma a second home to my roots in Marion. I made so many friends as a teenager in those four years, many of whom remain lifelong friends. Selma holds such a special place in my heart in large part due to my experiences on the baseball field with Coach Reece.

I wanted his family to know what he meant to me, and it’s obvious what he meant to the Selma community and in particular, the Selma athletic community.

Dean Mooty