Natchez Dixie Youth still in the ball game

Published 8:29 pm Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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NATCHEZ — It is not the final out for Natchez’s Dixie Youth baseball after all. League president Angie Hollowell said in a facebook post there had been some miscommunication and the rumor they were ending was not true. 

What is true is the league is not playing this season. A fact collaborated by the Natchez Dixie Youth Facebook page and Concordia Parish Dixie Youth Director Mike Bowlin. 

Dixie Youth will continue to be able to use the fields at Duncan Park but it will be too late for this season. Attempts to attain comment from Natchez Dixie Youth have been unsuccessful. 

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The unplayed season will allow for much needed improvements to both fields, dugouts, bleachers and press boxes. City of Natchez’s Richard Burke did comment on what the city’s plans for the year are. 

“Everything will be as it always has been. They can use our fields and they will be using our fields,” Burke said. “They heard something wrong. It is just good they are still partnering with us and we are happy to have them.” 

A post published by Natchez Dixie Youth’s Facebook page yesterday said the city would be taking over the operations. Burke said the only thing changing is the city now has a recreation department who will be investing in improving the ball fields and making sure the bleachers are in good shape. 

Natchez’s full time parks and recreation director Sanora Cole said last year they were hoping to install turf on the fields. Burke said the city is in a better shape to help Dixie Youth with a full time director and maintenance crew. 

A shift 

Bowlin has been with Concordia Parish Dixie Youth Board for the past 30 years and served as director for 25. His father Clarence Bowlin served as the director of Dixie Youth in Natchez until he died in 2021 at the age of 92. There was a time where Natchez would have 12 teams in each age league and they would have to break it up into divisions. 

Travel ball has hurt the Dixie Youth Program and Bowlin has watched from afar as Natchez’s teams have declined over the last five to eight years. 

“I hate to see it. They just could not get any work on the fields done,” Bowlin said. “They have people willing but they would always need materials or money to make things happen.” 

Another challenge for Natchez’s Dixie Youth Program was the completion of Concordia Parish’s complex. Bowlin said Mark Archer and Hyram Copeland worked to get a complex done about 10 to 12 years ago. He added he never thought Concordia Parish would get a complex before Natchez and once players play there it sells itself. 

Last season, Concordia Parish Dixie Youth had 300 participants and with three weeks before the deadline of signups they are at 100 so far. Bowlin said it is likely they will receive many more signups in the last few days before the deadline. 

“We spoke to Natchez Dixie Youth a few years ago to combine the programs and play some games at the complex and some at Duncan Park if they fixed the fields,” Bowlin said. “They never fixed the fields. So many have left for Concordia Parish, unless Natchez does something to get them back I don’t think fixing the fields will do it. Time will tell.” 

Seeing things unfold in Natchez has been difficult for Bowlin. His father again invested many years as a coach, director and umpire in Dixie Youth. Clarence’s legacy is the reason Bowlin is still involved with youth sports. He left big shoes to fill in Natchez. Bowlin said he is trying to find someone to take over the Concordia Parish Dixie Youth program whenever he retires, adding the league has “good people behind it.” 

Where can kids play

Anyone from Natchez is welcome to sign up for the Concordia Parish Dixie Youth program. Bowlin typically accepted sign ups at Hometown Sports but they are accepting sign ups at Sports Center in case parents can’t travel to Vidalia. 

Registration is $50 for wee ball, ages three to four, and $80 for older ages. Tryouts and drafts will be March 18 and March 20. 

“Dixie Youth’s national organization knows they won’t have a program in Natchez this year,” Bowlin said. “All kids from Natchez will be eligible for all-stars since we are the closest program.”