For the first time ever the City of Clinton Recreation and Parks Department sent a U-8 coach pitch team to the Dixie Youth District Tournament. The 7 and 8 year old Clinton All-Stars coach pitch team participated in the District 7 tournament on June 18-22 in Burgaw.
They actually did much more than participate, as they made it to the championship game of the double elimination tournament before dropping a one run decision to East Duplin in the final game. But possibly the most impressive part of their performance was the fact that they brought home the sportsmanship award for the tournament and some of the circumstances that made them worthy of that award.
The All-Star team was made up of players from other teams that competed in the rec department’s regular summer league. The players were picked by their individual coaches, who also nominated Barry Moore to be the head coach of the team. Moore had coached his regular U-8 team to a first place finish in the regular season, so getting the nod from the other coaches in the league was a well deserved honor.
“I was honored to be selected especially since the other coaches nominated me to be the all-star coach, I just wanted it to be a fun experience for the kids and for us to represent Clinton well in the tournament,” commented Moore.
The team navigated its way through the tournament field in undefeated fashion heading into the championship round. “We played well, the kids really listened to what the coaches told them and wanted to play ball, they were almost like major league players the way they conducted themselves,” added Moore. “They turned several double plays on defense and hit the ball well, and in the end, they put themselves in position to win the thing.”
Getting to the championship round undefeated meant that East Duplin, advancing out of the losers bracket, had to beat Clinton twice to take the title. Unfortunately the East Duplin All-Stars were up to the task, dropping the Clinton team twice to claim the District 7 title.
Moore continued, saying, “We lost a heart-breaker in the final game, 7-6, and had the bases loaded with two outs in the last inning, but just could not get the tying run across the plate. Even though we lost that game, I could not be prouder of the way our guys played and conducted themselves through the entire tournament.”
While they fell just short of continuing their season, the All-Stars learned valuable lessons in sportsmanship and competition. A shining example of this was an event that transpired during one of the tournament games that quite possibly defines what the Dixie Youth Baseball organization is most proud of.
“We had a player, Layne Barbour, get called out in a close play at third base,” Moore said. “The field umpire called him safe, then the call was overruled by the home plate umpire. Layne left the bag and headed to the dugout without saying a word. In fact, no one on our team questioned the call, they did what we had taught them, and respected the umpires authority and just continued to play ball. The two umpires met to discuss the play further and decided to ask the players involved if the tag was made. The opposing player told the umpires that he did not tag Layne and Layne confirmed to the umpires that he was not tagged. The umpires reversed the call again and put Layne back on third base making the situation right.”
Moore continued to praise his team’s sportsmanship.
“The thing that was most impressive about the situation was that even though the umpires clearly bumbled the handling of the close call, the kids never questioned them, keeping their cool and being ready to play ball not matter what the outcome was,” the coach said. “It was just a great example of how we should conduct ourselves and keep a level head. You have to give a great deal of credit to all the kids involved on both sides of the call.”
Their coach wasn’t the only one who noticed just how well the U-8 All-Stars conducted themselves, with others saying it was refreshing that a group of young kids competed fiercely and with a high level of sportsmanship, making their community proud in the process.
“We were so proud of the U-8 team,” said Clinton Rec director Jonathan Allen. “They represented Clinton well and the way they conducted themselves is a great example for all of us to follow in any situation.”