MCC baseball tradition not over just yet
Feb. 9, 2002
Sipping hot tea on a Saturday morning while longing for the sound of a bat smacking a baseball to ring in my ears …
The room was full of memories.
As former Meridian Community College baseball coach Corky Palmer spoke to supporters of the MCC baseball program at its annual fundraising banquet last week, it was interesting to look around the room and see who was there.
There was Kevin Brewer, affectionately known as "Thumper" during his playing days.
And of course there was Chris Nutt, the world's largest baseball manager.
I will never forget when my stepson Ryan, who was then a preteen, first heard me yell out "Hey Big Nutt," when I saw Chris walking down toward the field.
Ryan turned to me with his mouth wide open and the look on his face of someone who was about to see their stepfather beaten to a pulp and quietly asked, "Does he mind if you call him that?"
In fact, he doesn't. And Chris, who is every bit of 6-foot-6 or better and I'm not even going to bring up the poundage, had a good laugh about that story with me last week.
There were a lot of laughs as Palmer recanted his 10-year tenure at MCC and the work that went into turning the school's baseball program into one of the best in the country among Division I junior colleges.
Also in the banquet room at MSU-Meridian on this special night was Jason Smith, who played in the Major Leagues with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last year, as well as Paul Phillips, who is in the minors with the Kansas City Royals.
Former pitcher Chad Thornhill was there, as well as Mike Lee and Skipper Scaggs. And there were others many, many others.
There were also a lot of guys who were there, who didn't play during the Palmer/Scott Berry era, but who were still just as big a part of it as anyone.
You have to mention Judge Little and Scott Morgan when you begin to create such a list, knowing that you are going to leave somebody out.
While there were many familiar faces in the audience, there were some conspicuous absences.
While Palmer, Berry and hundreds of players poured a lot of sweat, and yes, actual blood, into the program as it made its way to five appearances in the Junior College World Series from 1993 to 2000, there is another man that never put on an MCC uniform, never swung a bat, never fielded a ball and never called a pitch that had a lot to do with the birth of what truly can be termed a dynasty.
His name will be forever linked to MCC baseball, and not just because the field is named after him.
While Palmer bobbed and weaved his way through his speech on Saturday night in true Corkesque style, the current USM head baseball coach made sure that he pointed out the foresight that former school president Dr. Bill Scaggs had for the program.
Of course, to be honest, you can't talk to Palmer about MCC baseball without him bringing up the name of Bill Scaggs. It just can't happen. Try it, you'll see.
Last Saturday's presentation at Eaglefest was awesome. Yes there was plenty of talk about the past, but there was also talk of the future.
Palmer and Berry are no longer leading the MCC program, but one of Palmer's proteges is.
Mike Federico will take the field for the first time as the head man in what is referred to as a "counter" today when the Eagles play host to a strong Wallace-Hanceville (Ala.) Community College team for a doubleheader at 1 p.m. at Scaggs Field.
Many think that the wins are behind MCC and that the victorious moments can never be rekindled.
Maybe that's true, maybe that's not.
But as long as there are still folks who truly "Bleed Green and White" as Palmer himself would say, the chances are that the program will remain at a high level.
One look around the room last Saturday night proved that. MCC baseball has become more than a game, it is truly a tradition.
One that nobody closely associated with the program wants to see change.
Something tells me that Federico will make sure that it doesn't on his watch.
Yes, Paul Phillips, Jason Smith, Braxton Whitehead, Kevin Shipp, Josh Hesse, Travis Garner and Scott Cheek will never play another baseball game for Meridian Community College.
But guys like Tyler Scarbrough, Justin Bounds, Lance Dawkins and Trave Hopkins will.
A tradition is not about a few guys winning a few games, it is about passing the torch.
That torch will be passed today at 1 p.m., and believe me, nobody wants to be holding it when it blows out.