Johnny Bench to highlight Choctaw camp
June 3, 2001
Thought for the day: If you're going to do something, you might as well do it right.
PHILADELPHIA It's no big secret that Choctaw Central High School's once-competitive baseball program has struggled in recent years. The Warriors have played too many schools in this area to hide the fact.
In fact, this year's high school team forfeited its last four games due to a lack of players.
The summer youth teams on the reservation haven't exactly been powerhouses in recent years either.
In an effort to spur interest in the national pastime among their young, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has put together the first Choctaw Central High School/MBCI Recreation Baseball Camp, Monday through Wednesday, at the splendid CCHS baseball complex located just off Highway 16W at the Pearl River reservation.
The opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. Monday and the guest speaker is none other than the best catcher the game has known n former Cincinnati Reds great Johnny Bench.
Bench, for those of you too young to remember the Big Red Machine in its heyday, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January 1989 and was named the 16th greatest player of all time and the top catcher by The Sporting News in 1998. In 1999, he received baseball's esteemed honor of selection to the All-Century Team.
Bench grew up in the small town of Binger, Okla., and dreamed of becoming a Major League baseball player when he got older. His father told him that the position of catcher was the most direct route to that goal.
Bench was drafted in 1965 by Cincinnati and he signed with the Reds. After just two years in the minors, Bench made the big-league roster for the 1968 season.
During his pro career, Bench was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1968, National League Most Valuable Player in 1970 and 1972, World Series MVP in 1976, was chosen for the All-Star Game a whopping 14 times, and won 10 Gold Gloves.
Following his retirement, Bench has turned to broadcasting, both radio and television. He has worked nine years with CBS Radio broadcasting the National Game of the Week, the All-Star Game, the League Championship Series, and the World Series, as well as play-by-play on Reds television.
He is a symbol of winning through hard work and teamwork as outlined in his keynote presentation featuring "The Vowels of Success" which highlights easy to remember motivational tips.
After Monday's opening ceremony, Bench is scheduled to provide demonstrations of fundamental techniques to the camp participants.
Other members of the camp staff include West Lauderdale head coach Jerry Boatner who has led the Knights to a state-best 10 state championships, former West Lauderdale and Mississippi State standout pitcher Jeremy Jackson, West Lauderdale assistant coach Darrell Theall, Choctaw Central head coach Jonathon Wells, and Choctaw Central assistant coach Troy Savell.
On Monday, the camp runs from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the camp begins at 10 a.m. and will last to 2 p.m. Lunch will be provided for camp participants each day with an awards presentation on Wednesday.
The camp is for persons ages 12-18. All camp participants must submit a parental release form as part of registration. Walk-in registration will be held Monday prior to the camp.
Persons of all ages are welcome to the Johnny Bench presentation.
For more information, contact Chassidy Bell at 601-650-1693 or Creda Stewart at 601-650-1537.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.