Atkins, Williams remember State experience

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2000

So many things have to go into hosting a Dixie Youth Baseball State Tournament. Just ask Johnny Atkins and John Mark Williams, who have both done it – twice.

This year that task falls on William Barnes, who will coach the Natchez Confederate League in this year’s tournament beginning Saturday.

Opening ceremonies will be held today at 6:30 p.m. at Carroll-Jones Field in Duncan Park.

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Atkins and his team hosted state in 1991 and 1993, and won the championship each time.

Williams coached the team in the state tournament in Natchez in 1996 and 1998, and his squad finished as runners-up both times.

Both former coaches agree that the hardest part about hosting a state tournament is keeping the players focused and being able to keep them ready for tournament play.

&uot;There is just such a long layoff between the time you play the other league, and the time the tournament starts that it’s hard to find teams that will play you, so you can keep your team loose,&uot;&160;Atkins said.

Williams agreed.

&uot;It is hard to keep your players focused, but we were fortunate enough to have someone like Barr Brown, who was able to schedule enough teams for us to play in the layoff, that we were ready when the tournament started,&uot; he said.

Atkins said there are many things that come into play when making the pitch to host the tournament.

&uot;They (the board members for Dixie Youth Baseball) wouldn’t have let us host if we didn’t have the facilities that we do or the reputation that we do, so we were fortunate in that way,&uot;&160;he said.

Williams said the reason why he and Atkins pushed so hard to have the opportunity to host was because of a variety of advantages.

&uot;They were able to sleep in their own beds, eat their momma’s cookin’ and not have to travel so much,&uot;&160;Williams said.

&uot;I’ll be honest, I&160;wanted to host because it was so much easier on me,&uot;&160;Atkins said. &uot;I&160;was able to tend to my business during the day and go to the ball park at night.&uot;

Williams said the toughest part of it for him was having to tend to the administrative duties as well as the coaching aspect.

&uot;It was just hard to separate my coaching duties from making sure everyone was fed, and all the teams had places to stay and things like that, but being able to give the city of Natchez a showing like we did in 1998 made it all worthwhile,&uot;&160;he said.

Atkins said he has been talking with Barnes about what it takes to host a state tournament.

&uot;I&160;think it ought to be a good one. He believes his team is ready,&uot;&160;he said.

Williams and Atkins both said, &uot;It’s just an experience you’ll never forget.&uot;