LUMBERTON — Gary Carr’s Dixie Youth “O” Zone baseball team walked around the track at Lumberton High School on Friday night with “Wagon Wheel” playing on the speakers, and many of his players from the Lumberton host were amazed at the sight of what was before them in their hometown.
“I don’t think it really hit home for them until we started walking up in front of the crowds, and the kids were saying, ‘That’s too many people,’” Carr said. “This is awesome for the kids because it is all about the kids for me. It was a big thing for them.”
After the city of Lumberton welcomed the Coach and Machine Pitch Championships last week, the opening ceremony for the AAA, Majors and “O” Zone World Series set to start on Saturday brought more teams, more players and had the festivities to welcome the bigger stage.
Thirty-three state champions walked the track at Alton Brooks Stadium, just like the three Lumberton host teams, bringing 540 players and coaches to center stage during the ceremony.
A splash of Lumberton was thrown in nearly every presentation of the opening ceremony when Roy West, a board member for the Lumberton Youth Baseball, presented Lumberton host jerseys to Kenny Britt and Dixie Youth Commissioner Wes Skelton.
Britt, a Lumberton native, is the longest serving Dixie Youth National director with 38 years under his belt at that capacity, and also helped start a baseball league in Evergreen. Skelton has served as the commissioner of the league for more than 20 years, and is in his final year serving in that role.
Two past Dixie Youth World Series championship teams were honored as well with local ties. The 1993 championship team from Columbus County commemorated their 25th anniversary with eight players and two coaches present. Lumberton’s 2010 team that won the Majors title in Gonzalez, La., also was recognized. Evan Odum, Jack Frederick, Daniel Oxendine and Richard Thomas were players on that team that were represented with coaches Thomas Odum and Robert Brewington.
“I hadn’t seen those guys in a long time so it was good to see them again,” Carr said of the 2010 team. “Hopefully they can set an example for the rest of these kids to follow.”
Ceremonial first pitches were thrown out by Lumberton native and former U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, chairman of the Lumberton Tourism Development Authority Arnold West and former NFL fullback and Robeson County native Vonta Leach.
Those pitches followed the keynote address from Appalachian State baseball coach Kermit Smith. The third-year coach for the Mountaineers talked to the players about how to carry themselves and be better teammates, but also to represent their team well.
“You came out and competed as hard as you could every single day and you earned something. You earned a chance to be an all-star,” Smith said. “Not only that, but you earned a chance to put your town’s name across your chest, Lumberton. And if you are very fortunate, you get a chance to put your state’s name across your chest.”
Due to certain field conditions, play will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday for the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.