Cotton States all-stars square off

Clark Richey admits the BNA Bank Cotton States Baseball League North Division needs some improvement.
However, the CSBL North partner is quite pleased with the way things are going in the division’s inaugural season.
“Everything has not been perfect this year,” Richey said on Friday from his Mississippi Select Sports office in Baldwyn. “But we are very satisfied and pleased with the way things have gone this year.
“There are need for improvements, though.”
Other than the need for covered seating and so forth, Richey has to be happy with the progression of the league, knowing full well that the idea of having a summer collegiate baseball league in North Mississippi didn’t come about until March of this year.
That was when Richey spoke with former major-leaguer and Ole Miss standout Chris Snopek, who entertained the idea of expanding his Jackson-based Cotton States Baseball League to North Mississippi.
Fast forward to today, and the eight-team CSBL will be holding an all-star game featuring players from both the North and Central divisions at New Albany’s Legion Field, the site of all the North Division games.
The Central Division plays its games at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson, and today’s all-star game will be the last game of the season for the Central Division players.
The North Division, on the other hand, has two more weeks of regular-season games left and then a four-team double-elimination tournament – instead of a league championship series between the best Central and North teams – set to begin on July 31.
Richey said he doesn’t think that the Central Division was having troubles financially, but instead it was hard to keep the Jackson-area players interested in playing the rest of the summer.
“There’s no break whatsoever,” Richey said. “It’s something we’ll think about next year too.”
The North Division has already had to tweak its schedule due to game times not suiting too well with the fans and players, and games lasting late into the night.
Richey added that both divisions, which operate differently from one another, will be back for next season.
“They are not quite set up like we are,” Richey said. “They are not doing this minor-league system kind of thing we are doing.”
The North Division has invested a lot of money in putting together promotions for its games. A recent promotion was the Sonic Drive-In Fireworks Night, when the Golden Triangle Jets played the Tallahatchie Rascals on July 6.
“I think we will do a better job with our promotions,” Richey said. “We’re working with our sponsors to have different promotions.
“We know that the involvement of the youth teams with the other teams in our league are an important part of our operations.”
Also involved with the CSBL North has been the Mississippi State and Ole Miss baseball programs. Richey said the league has exchanged a few emails with Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco and has had a face-to-face meeting with MSU coach John Cohen in Starkville.
There are more than 20 Division I players in the CSBL North, and four players in the division will be part of the MSU program in 2010.
Since Ole Miss was still playing when the brand-new CSBL opened up its season, Richey said it was “impractical to do anything significant with them this year.”
Richey said the North Division, which has been averaging about 200 fans per game (125 for a mid-week game), “hopes to have at least five teams in the North Division” next year.
“It would be great if we could do six, but we have a schedule worked out already for five teams in the North Division,” he said.
He added that the CSBL has been thinking about having additional divisions in Tennessee and Alabama.
“Maybe have the same model occurring somewhere else such as Jackson, Tenn., or Huntsville (Ala.),” Richey said.
“We’ve had no contact with any of those cities. It’s just a thought.”

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

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