OZARK – Opening ceremonies are about looking ahead. For the coaching speakers who opened the AAU National Championship baseball tournaments Thursday night at the Ozark Civic Center, it was about giving back.
Enterprise State’s Bubba Frichter, Holmes (Miss.) Community College head coach Kenny Dupont, Troy University’s Mark Smartt and Auburn University’s Butch Thompson joined Alabama Baseball Coaches Association executive director Barry Dean in welcoming players, coaches and parents to the nationals, which start today in Ozark and Dothan.
Thompson’s appearance came a month after the Tigers’ thrilling run to the College World Series. He loves his job “coaching in the best league in the country.”
“But you also want to make a difference for your players and your school,” Thompson said. “You want to make a difference in your state and get involved as much as you can when you can develop and grow our great sport.
“The guys that went before me kind of taught me that was the right thing to do and it’s my turn to carry that torch.”
Dupont, who has won more than 500 games at Holmes in 19 seasons as head coach, said he came back to thank Sammy Frichter, his coach at Wallace College in 1985 and 1986. Frichter oversees the Wiregrass Cardinals program, which is involved in the AAU tournaments.
“If it wasn’t for coach, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. That’s just being honest,” Dupont said of Frichter. “I played for him. He taught me everything I know about the game and how to act and how to handle myself – everything from dressing to shaving. I owe it all to him – and that’s honest.”
Thompson said Ozark and Dothan should be congratulated for putting on a national tournament.
“A world series that a whole region is putting on for something as big as this, this is an opportunity for us to keep telling these young people, encouraging these coaches and supporting these parents, who have given so much and worked so hard to give these opportunities to their children,” Thompson said.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate baseball. This is the greatest game ever. We’ll keep singing that and hopefully there’ll be one or two good teaching moments to keep encouraging us all as we try to battle through life.”
AAU National Championship
Northcutt Field (Dothan)
8 a.m. Wiregrass Cardinals vs. LB Warrior; 10:15 a.m. LB Warriors vs. North Florida Black Sox Gray; 12:30 p.m. Orlando vs. North Florida Black Sox Gray; 2:45 p.m. North Florida Black Sox White vs. Orlando.
Pitman Field (Dothan)
8 a.m. Dothan Dragons 14U vs. Ozark 15U; 10:15 a.m. Ozark 15U vs. Wiregrass Cardinals 15U; 12:30 p.m. Dothan Dragons 14U vs. Wiregrass Cardinals 15U; 2:45 p.m. Orlando vs. Dothan Dragons 16U.
Eagle Stadium (Ozark)
8 a.m. Ozark vs. Orlando; 10:15 a.m. Wiregrass Cardinals vs. Dothan Dragons 16U; 12:30 p.m. GATA Wolfpack vs. Ozark; 2:45 p.m. Wiregrass Cardinals vs. GATA Wolfpack.