Porky Smith will receive “Distinguished American Award”
NATCHEZ — Simply hearing “Hey Mr. Porky” from the many individuals who participated in Natchez Dixie Youth Baseball was rewarding enough for Billy “Porky” Smith.
But this Thursday at the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame banquet, Smith will be honored with the “Distinguished American Award” for his services to athletics in the community, bringing it all full circle for Smith.
But who’s to say Smith’s support of athletics hadn’t already come full circle five years ago, as he recorded stats on the sidelines for the Cathedral Green Wave on Friday nights? Before Smith became commissioner over the 9- and 10-year-olds league for Natchez Dixie Youth, and while he was coaching a major league group for the organization, Smith was watching his son, Mike Smith, play junior high football for Adams County Christian School one random day in 1986. Smith observed his son play for a man he admired and would soon grow to love in Terry Moffett. During the game, one Rebel player went down with an injury, leaving Moffett with the responsibility of coaching while tending to the player.
“He was the coach, he was the bus driver, he was the doctor,” Smith said. “He was one of the best coaches in this area. I would match him up against anybody, and he’s not even coaching football anymore.”
Smith let himself through the gate and approached Moffett, offering his assistance.
“The first words he ever spoke to me were, ‘Hey cuz, you need some help?’” said Moffett, laughing as he recalled the story.
It just so happened that the Rebel player Smith tended to that day was Ron Rushing, who would later become the head coach of Cathedral and lead the school to its first state championship in football in 2014. Rushing’s Green Wave won the state title with Smith watching on the sidelines with his grandson.
At the time, Moffett was thankful for the help, but he had no idea he was getting a helper for the rest of his coaching career.
“I asked him, ‘When’s the bus leaving?’
and he said, ‘Pokey, he called me Pokey, we’re going to leave at 4:30. Do you want me to reserve a seat?’” Smith said. “I said, “Yes, sir.” My wife had to find a ride to the games. Wherever Moffett went, I went.”
Smith first got involved with youth league athletics in the community in 1969, when he and a few buddies decided to coach a Senior League team after they graduated from Natchez-Adams County High School.
“We won a couple of state championships,” Smith said. “We had guys on the team like Joey Porter.”
But a few years after Smith got involved, the league faded away because of lack of participation.
In 1979, when Mike was old enough to play T-ball, Smith started coaching with Natchez Dixie Youth, and followed his son up until he was 12 years old.
Smith met with Clarence Bowlin, who was president of Natchez Dixie Youth Baseball at the time, and told him he wasn’t going to coach any longer because he wanted to follow Mike around and watch all of his sporting events.
“I told him, ‘I don’t have time to coach,’ so Mr. Bowlin said, ‘Porky, why don’t you get on the board with us,’” Smith said. “I said, ‘Mr. Bowlin, that is a good idea if you’ll let me have the 9- and 10-year-olds.”
Smith served as commissioner for the 9- and 10-year-olds, what Smith called the best age group because they wanted to learn and “don’t know it all yet,” from 1988 until 2012. During that same period, Smith followed Moffett from ACCS to Cathedral. Moffett coached at ACCS from 1986-1996, and during that time, Smith kept stats, was the voice of the Rebels and helped Moffett bring in lights for the baseball field. Then, when Moffett left ACCS in 1996 to join Cathedral’s coaching staff, Smith tagged along.
“I said, ‘Tell them, they’re getting a two-for-one deal,’” Smith said.
In the mid 2000s, Moffett accepted a position as director of the Career and Technical Center in Franklin County, but Smith stayed put at Cathedral, continuing to take stats for the team. And though he’s technically retired from the Natchez Dixie Youth Baseball board, he’s still attending meetings and trying to lend a helping hand. Why? Smith can’t separate himself from athletics and the young people of this community. Because of this, he’s become a familiar face to all those involved with youth baseball and high school athletics. The prize in that for Smith has been the part he’s played in young people’s lives throughout the years.
“I might have had a good bit in their life or I might not have had anything to do with it, but if they’re out here on the field, then they’re off the street,” said Smith, looking at Carroll-Jones Field. “They’re doing something valuable out here.”
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