Bowlin retires from youth league

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; There’s really been two things C.A. Bowlin has always tried to do while he was in charge of the Natchez Dixie Youth Baseball League.

Surround himself with good people.

Treat every child special.

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That’s the way it’s always been with the longtime director, who stepped in back in 1952 to help out and never left. There was a rule at one time where the first 60 kids who signed up played the ones after that were cut, but he helped change that.

There was a time where All-Star teams didn’t have to let every player bat. He helped change that, too.

On Saturday Bowlin officially stepped down as director after 52 years as Natchez Dixie Youth Baseball celebrated its 50-year anniversary. And he did it just the way you’d expect &045; gathering all kids playing this season at Carroll-Jones Field, the first field Dixie Youth used when it first began.

&uot;I’d like to be an advisor and help out any way I can,&uot; Bowlin said. &uot;I think, in all truthfulness, the last two years I’ve done very little. I tried to resign a few years back, and nobody looked like they were going to pick it up. I went back to my board of directors and decided to step down. There are good people in this program, and it’s time for young leadership to come along.&uot;

The celebration Saturday was a final salute to Bowlin and others who have been with the program since it started as Little League back in 1951 before four years later moving to Little Boys Baseball, which later renamed itself Dixie Youth Baseball. Through the years there have likely been tens of thousands of little boys and girls come through the program, many of which put their children through the program.

Bowlin, who first got involved when Newt Jones and Bill Carroll called him to help out, has seen them come through every step of the way.

&uot;I’ve been a director for 12 years, and I’ll be honest with you &045; I could talk for days about Clarence Bowlin,&uot; said Bryant Adams, co-commissioner of the coach pitch league along with Michael Anderson. &uot;From when I started until right now, I admire him for what he’s done in the community and in Natchez. He’s been very, very dedicated. There’s not enough words to described what he’s done and what he’s accomplished.&uot;

The baseball program in Natchez and on the national level has grown so much over 50 years, and in August a huge celebration will be held in Auburn, Ala., to celebrate the milestone. Bowlin said as long as his health allows he’ll attend the function since he serves as one of three national directors in the state.

It’s a position he’s had for 35 years and one that oversees the entire organization in 11 states in the southeastern United States. Bowlin will resign from that position when he term runs out next year.

&uot;I think it’s a great program,&uot; he said. &uot;I had one guy come to the back of (my) store and say, ‘Mr. Bowlin, I want to shake your hand. I didn’t have the leadership and didn’t think I would make it if it wasn’t for the Dixie Youth program. I wouldn’t be here.’ That makes the whole program worthwhile.

&uot;The parents are really what makes the program. Some of them will get out of hand every once in a while, but the majority of them are very supportive and do what we need them to do.&uot;

As a national director, Bowlin said he’s helped pass new rules that got more kids involved with baseball and regular games and protected the kids. He helped pass the rule where an All-Star batting lineup includes every players on the roster, and he helped pass the rule where all catches wear masks no matter what league it is.

All those rules are what it’s about &045; treating every kid special.

&uot;I can look back on the program and see my fingerprints,&uot; Bowlin said. &uot;I fought hard to have everybody play. Some kids never got in a ball game, and that’s not the way it ought to be. This one commissioner said just to be on the All-Star team is an honor. Then his boy got on the All-Stars, and he had to drive 100 miles to see his son never play. I decided that wasn’t the best thing for us.&uot;

Now the league will turn Bowlin’s duties over to co-directors Garnell Webb and Joe Eidt III, although Bowlin says he’d like to still contribute in some way.

&uot;He was umpiring when I played ball, and I’m 58 years old and that was when I was 11 and 12,&uot; Webb said. &uot;I first got into the program as a director, and Mr. Bowlin said, ‘As long as you’re here for the kids, I want you. If you’re not, I don’t want you.’ He’s not about winning and losing. He’s about coming out and having fun.&uot;

At the ceremony Saturday Bowlin thanked everyone involved in the program and several of the longtime team sponsors &045; including Sports Center for 54 years, Redd Pest for 52 years, Premo Stallone for 50 years and Coca-Cola for 42 years.

The league isn’t what it used to be, Bowlin said. There was a time where it fielding 40 teams, and now there are 26. Yet Webb said everyone wants to get that number back up again despite the obstacles ahead.

And they’ll keep in mind what Bowlin always did during his years as director.

&uot;If we get little girls and boys together right,&uot; Bowlin told the players, &uot;everything in this world will be all right.&uot;