Pitch tournament team embraces growth

Published 1:14 am Monday, March 15, 2010

VIDALIA — Vidalia resident Buddy Brown wanted back into baseball in some capacity.

Having played in junior college at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Brown had long since used up any eligibility he had left. The only option was coaching, and the right spark came from watching a group of children play city league youth baseball.

“There was a group of five or six kids that just had something special about them,” Brown said. “(My brother) Ronnie and I said, if we can just take those five or six and get them better, we could have something.”

The result was an ages 7-and- under Miss-Lou coach pitch tournament team called the Vidalia Vikings, which is part of the U.S. Specialty Sports Association. The team travels from city to city, playing in USSSA tournaments.

“Jackson, Baton Rouge, Monroe, those will be the main sites for tournaments,” Brown said. “We’ve only played in one so far (in Vicksburg the weekend of March 6). It’s tough, because you don’t really know where you’re going to play until the last second.”

The Vikings have grown to a 12-player team, with 11 of them being from Vidalia.

“Matthew Petty is the one kid from Natchez,” Brown said. “All 12 of my players play in the city leagues, even though most tournament teams’ players don’t support their city league. That’s a big testament to the parents.”

In addition to Petty, Drew Brown, Cody Brown, Matthew Parnham, Caleb Smith, Jones Richardson, Rhet McDonald, Owen Hutton, Peyton Fort, Brett Walsworth, Cole Beard and Brandon Bozeman make up the Vikings.

The 12 have seen noticeable improvement from when the team was founded late last summer, Brown said.

“We were really behind talent-wise back then, and it’s remarkable seeing the growth of these kids. When we first started, we traveled to Baton Rouge to play the No. 2 team in Louisiana there, and got beat 27-4.

“Eight months later, we played the No. 2 team in Mississippi, Northwest Rankin, last weekend in Vickburg, and won 20-14. We ended up placing second in the tournament, and Northwest Rankin came back and won, but we’re competing with the best now when, last fall, we weren’t even in it.”

And that growth has been a result of the dedication of the children and parents, even in the midst of adverse practice conditions.

“We practiced all winter in 30-degree weather,” Brown said. “The kids and the parents were extremely dedicated. There were probably at least 10 practices where it was below 40 degrees, but we got no complaints from the children or their parents.”

And that maturity is also evident in how they play the game, Brown said.

“The fundamentals these kids are playing with are remarkable. They’re like minor leaguers. They don’t act like little kids at all.”

The Vikings are currently 2-1 on the season, and are searching for another tournament to play in. Brown said the team would play baseball all 12 months of the year, even when the children are simultaneously playing in the Dixie Youth league.