It’s Official: Good, bad abound in prep sports

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2004

As is true in almost everything in life there is much good and much bad in high school sports.

First the bad. A couple of weeks ago a high school baseball coach in Mississippi pulled his junior varsity team from the field in the middle of a game.

He probably felt the umpires were jobbing him, or maybe that the opposing fans were verbally abusing his players. I never saw his reasoning published.

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He had to know that the MHSAA has long had a hard and fast rule against pulling out of any contest before its completion.

The punishment handed down by the MHSAA was to disqualify his baseball team from playoff action, for which they had already qualified.

I know nothing of that team’s ability to have advanced far in the playoffs, but those kids have to feel cheated by their coach as they watch a team they had obviously defeated, maybe more than once, move on in their place.

All fans, coaches and players have at times been upset at officiating, regardless of the sport or level of play.

In baseball, the cries, &uot;Wake up, blue,&uot; or &uot;Ump, you’re blind,&uot; have been shouted for generations, but the really good coaches know what goes around comes around.

A high school baseball coach told me last week, &uot;They were giving us the low, outside pitch, and I sure wasn’t going to complain. I don’t complain much anyway, because I don’t want them mad at me when the close calls come.&uot;

I know baseball and softball umpiring isn’t as physically demanding as in football and basketball, but there are so many very close plays every game on almost every pitch that a very high level of concentration and judgement is required in order to do a decent job.

The good side of high school sports became apparent Saturday.

Madison Central and Southaven met in a crucial pair of softball playoff games leading to a spot in the Class 5A championship game.

Madison Central, standing at 28-2 and ranked No. 1 in the state, had lost an early-season game to Southaven. Southaven stood at 25-4, with two of those losses being to Madison Central.

Southaven, the defending state champions, scraped by with a 3-2 win in Game 1, while Madison Central won Game 2, 3-0. The teams were scheduled to play the deciding third game Monday in Southaven.

What was really good about all of this was that, even after these very skilled and dedicated girls played two hard and intense contests, as soon as the Madison Central coach has said a word of two to his team, the girls all crowded behind the dugout and broke out into a loud &uot;Happy Birthday&uot; song, to &uot;Brittney.&uot;

I don’t know if it was to Brittany Wright or Britnee Hobson, but it doesn’t matter. In only a moment they all had birthday cake all over their faces and were back to being teen-aged girls.

Next week, I have some comments and reflections about Eli Manning and the draft.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached at