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Area youth baseball enjoys good seasons

By By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
Jan. 24, 2002
The North Meridian Optimist Club's All-Star baseball teams have enjoyed a great run of success in recent years.
Last year, the NMO sent two teams to World Series play. The 10-year-old NMO All-Stars finished second at the Cal Ripken World Series in Glen Allen, Va., falling to the tournament hosts 12-2 in the championship game.
The other group of Meridian All-Stars was the Babe Ruth 13-year-old All-Stars who won the Southwestern Regional title. That title earned them a berth to the Babe Ruth 13-year-old World Series in Wilson County, N.C. There, the team came in third.
For this group of Babe Ruth All-Stars, this was their second straight World Series. They have won three straight state championships beginning when they were 11.
This has been a real successful group of kids," said NMO League President Rob Bullock. "This summer, this particular group of players will have been playing together for four years."
The run started in 1999 when the group won the state title in Cal Ripken. They went on to the Southwestern Regional but didn't fare well there.
They came back in 2000, again winning the state title in the Cal Ripken 12-year-old division. They advanced to the Ripken Southwestern Regional and this time won it to earn their first trip to a World Series.
The group did just that. They won a third state title, this time in Babe Ruth's 13-year-old division. They went on to take the Southwestern Regional in Del Rio, Texas.
Next was the trip to the World Series in Wilson County, N.C. Vancouver, Wash., won the championship by beating Taylorsville, Utah 11-7 in the final. Taylorsville reached the final by beating Meridian in the semifinal.
Because of its success, the North Meridian Optimist Club is looking forward to another great year in 2002. They have already lined up the host role for the Babe Ruth 14-year-old Southwestern Regional. The event is set for Aug. 1-6 and will be played at Meridian Community College's Scaggs Fields.
That was evident as three players from each of the NMO's World Series teams were individually honored. All six are expected back in league action later this spring.
For the NMO's Cal Ripken 10's, third baseman Jake Watkins was named to the All-World Series team. Shortstop Kenny Roberts and Dallas Hannah were named to the All-World Series Defensive team.
For the NMO's Babe Ruth 13's, catcher Tyler McMullen and shortstop Drew Snider were named to the All-World Series team. Cory Griffin was named to the All-Defensive team as a utility player.
Overall, the North Meridian Optimist Club has nearly 640 youths participating in its spring/summer baseball program. The Babe Ruth League, which consist of players 13 and 14-years-old, has 10 teams.
After the age of 14, Meridian players step up into the Dixie Pre-Majors and Majors.
Meridian won the 2001 Dixie Majors Championship in North Charleston, S.C. It also won a Pre-Majors title in 1993.
According to Charle Turner, the West Lauderdale Youth Baseball Association has enjoyed its share of success as well.
The WLYBA is for youths from the ages of 5-12. Dixie Youth provides tournament play for its AA Class (7-8 year-olds), Dixie Minor (9-10) and Dixie Major (11-12).
The Crestwood Dizzy Dean program is the home of several of Meridian's professional athletes.
St. Louis Rams' defensive back Dexter McCleon, Chicago White Sox baseball player Gerard McCall and the late Brian Keith Cole of the New York Mets organization all got their starts in the Crestwood League.
Crestwood also has a proud tradition of winning a state championship in 1986. That team went on to finish second at the World Series.