The father getting wrapped up in the Saltillo game was a typical dad, except his baseball talk was a lot more technical.
He paid a lot of attention to the left side of the infield where Jeff Dillard is playing short and brother Andy is playing third base. Jeff is one of the top two hitters on the Tiger squad with a .417 batting average.
His father in the stands is Steve Dillard, having returned to Lee County after a long career as a minor league coach. Before that he had been an all-SEC shortstop at Ole Miss and then had an eight-year major league with Boston, Detroit and both Chicago teams.
This is his first season away from professional baseball and he professed a divine ignorance of what was happening on the professional scene. Since retiring after serving as the Cubs hitting coach at Rockford, Ill., last year, he hasn’t had much contact.
“One of the reasons I left it was so I could do this,” he said, looking out to the infield. “And not just to see them play ball. I only go to see them play eight days in six months.”
Saltillo coach Johnny Bolen, who played his high school ball three years ahead of Dillard, said:
“When Jeff goes behind second for the ball, he reminds me a lot of Steve. The kid works as hard as anyone I have been around though.”
Andy is still developing as a player, though the 14-year-old third baseman can certainly make a solid throw across the corners. He also hits a solid .358. A third Dillard, Tim, 12, is a catcher on the junior high team.
Steve Dillard is satisfied to mostly just watch his sons play and throw an occasional batting practice. Bolen said that Dillard did offer some suggestions for a couple of players who were in a slump.
He doesn’t miss the professional circuit.
“It looks like I’ll get my baseball watching them this spring and summer,” Dillard said.
Getting the Rust out: Just like Falkner and Calhoun City took a while to shake off basketball rust to get into the playoffs, one wonders if Mississippi Class 1A Champion Biggersville is doing the same in baseball.
The Lions are 3-5-1, including 0-2 before the basketball players joined the team.
Coach Jacky Rowsey said, “This is supposed to be a rebuilding year for us. Except for pitcher Daniel Rowsey, we lost the last remnants of the 1994 championship after last year (when the Lions were 21-13-1).
“Nicky Shaw is doing a good job of filling in at catcher for (four-year starter) Barry Nash who was there forever. We could be all right when Daniel and Chad Allen come around.”
Last season Rowsey (1-0) was 9-3, and Allen was throwing mostly for the B-team.
“The first pitch he (Rowsey) threw was in a game, and he has struck out 16 in 10 2/3 innings.
Biggersville will host a Wheeler-Jumpertown doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. Friday, then next week has six games in the Absorbants-Unlimited tournament.
“We will have a lot better idea where we are then,” Rowsey said.
Rough season: The Biggersville doubleheader is just one of many adjustments that area teams are having to make for the third week in a row.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Tishomingo coach Jerry Long said.
This season, games have been called for cold, snow and rain. Schools were forced to take a test break for two good days to get some games in, as all extra-curricular events were scrubbed for the FLE tests earlier this week.
Toughest Division: A good question is what is the hardest division to play in for area teams? If balance is the answer two stand out. Division 1-4A has Tishomingo County out in front. Also, a solid hitting Alcorn Central recently outslugged a solid Oxford team. Tishomingo is on top for now at 5-0, but Oxford coach Roger Smith said, “This is a division that can get you beat on any given day.”
A solid case can be made for Division 1-3A. Pontotoc is dominating there at the moment, but Amory, Saltillo and Ripley can make Waves.
Aberdeen coach Wes Johnson, whose team started the year 12-1 and found itself 12-3 after Division 2-4A losses to Louisville and Kosciusko, nominates his own division for one reason New Hope.
The 16-0 Trojans have won all their division games to date by the 10-run rule.
“They are the best high school team I have seen in a long time,” Johnson said.
Mike Talbert is a Daily Journal sports writer.