Generations of Bruce family grow up playing in youth program
VIDALIA — Wesley Bruce remembers his father, L.C. Bruce, first beginning the Concordia Parish Dixie Youth program back in the late ’50s.
Though Wesley was too old to play Dixie Youth by the time his father got the program running, he watched as his children and grandchildren grew up playing baseball under the program his dad founded.
Now, L.C.’s great-great grandson is set to continue the tradition of Dixie Youth baseball in Bruce’s family. Three-year-old Will Shields is currently playing in the wee ball division of the Vidalia Girls Softball League. Wee ball is a co-ed league that introduces 3- and 4-year-olds to hitting, fielding and running the bases.
Though Will isn’t quite old enough to play Dixie Youth ball yet, Wesley said it’s only a matter of time until Will plays in the same league in which Will’s father and grandfather played.
“It’s fantastic,” Wesley said of seeing Will play. “This has been going on for so many years. If a boy is born in the Bruce family, he’ll automatically be playing baseball.”
Will said one of the main things he’s learning in wee ball is one of the most basic principals in any level of baseball.
“I like to hit the ball,” Will said.
And the young wee baller has already picked up on what to do when he’s in the batter’s box.
“The ball goes right there,” Will said, pointing to the tee, “and I swing at the ball.”
Once he gets a good lick on it, the next step is simple.
“I run first base,” Will said.
But Will’s baseball activities aren’t limited to the fields at the Concordia Parish Recreation District 3 complex. Will with often play catch with his father, Lee Hash. And Wesley gets a kick out of watching it.
“I’ve seen him in the living room just pitching back and forth,” Wesley said.
Robin Stahlman, Will’s grandmother, said she’s not surprised her grandson has gotten involved in baseball at an early age. Whether it was Dixie Youth for the boys or Vidalia Girls Softball for the girls, ball games were always a part of the family’s summer.
“Sometimes we couldn’t take summer vacations because of it,” Stahlman said. “It was just a part of us growing up.”
With tears in her eyes, Stahlman recalled her grandfather, L.C., visiting his grandchildren every Saturday morning. Watching her grandson play in the same league her grandfather founded is something she’ll forever treasure, she said.
“My granddaddy was my heart,” Stahlman said. “To see the results of what he started, and what my son and now grandson played in, it’s special.”