T.M. Jennings teams forced to play each other over and over
NATCHEZ — Every time 7-year-old Jaylin Davis takes the field for a game, he and the rest of his teammates know exactly what to expect.
Put on the T.M. Jennings ages 7 and 8 Don’s Barber Shop jersey. Show up to the Frazier Elementary School a little before 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Go through warm-up and get ready to hit the field.
Their opponent? Alexander Body Shop. The same opponent as last time — and the time before that, and the time before that.
“(We) have to play the same team every day,” Davis said, the displeasure in his voice clear. “It’s not good, because we’re losing every day.”
Sometimes it’s by one run, and sometimes it’s by several runs, but aside from a 5-4 victory Wednesday night, Don’s Barber Shop has been on the short end against Alexander Body Shop in five of six games played this season. With those two teams being the only two teams in the 7- and 8-year-old age bracket, though, there isn’t much the children can do but suck it up.
“With them playing each other all the time, I feel like there should have been at least two to three more teams so there can be a little bit (more) competition,” Don’s Barber Shop coach Favian Moore said.
“Being two teams, the kids get bored and tired, and they don’t really want to play the same teams.”
The 11- and 12-year-olds are also forced to play the same teams every week in T.M. Jennings, with United Mississippi Bank and Kappa League the only two teams in that age bracket. T.M. Jennings director Deselle Davis said low numbers in those two age divisions forced the two-team format. Other than potentially joining other youth leagues, Davis said he’s not sure of the reason behind the numbers shortages.
“I was hoping for more, but there was a shortage of kids, so we could only play with what we had,” Davis said. “I don’t really feel it’s a disadvantage. We just work with what we have. We’re here for the kids.”
Alexander Body Shop coach Carlos Williams said the important thing is for the coaches to be there for the children they are getting to coach.
“It gets a little frustrating knowing that you want it to be better, but it’s all about the kids,” Williams said. “At certain times, they wonder why they’re playing the same team, and it’s hard to explain to them why the turnout isn’t as big and why these kids aren’t there.”
Williams also said it’s up to the league to gather more sponsors for the league and attract more children.
“We have to do a better job of putting our word out there in the community as a T.M. Jennings league,” he said. “We have to try to work with the parents and see what we can do to make things better for everyone.”
From talking to his players, Williams said he gets the sense that most of them are just happy to be playing baseball.
“I think if they had more teams they’d maybe have more fun, but right now, they’re always having fun,” he said.
Moore said his players would have a lot more fun if they could rack up more wins like they did Wednesday evening.
“They’re not too down about it,” Moore said. “After a close game, they look forward to playing the next game, but if they lose by five or more runs, they’re like, ‘We don’t want to play anymore,’ and I just tell them to keep their head up, and things will get better.”
Despite a two-team format, Davis said both the 7- and 8-year-old and the 11- and 12-year-old divisions would feature a championship series, which will be a best-of-three format.