NEW ALBANY – James Earl Jones’ stirring “people will come” monologue from “Field of Dreams” opened Tuesday’s news conference to announce plans for a collegiate wooden bat league – the Cotton States Baseball League.
CSBL North Division president Clark Richey hopes the four-team league, which will begin play this summer at the New Albany Sportsplex, draws as well as the baseball diamond Ray Kinsella built in an Iowa cornfield
“We’re going to run this league like a minor league team … with bat night, hat night, fireworks,” Richey said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to make this an enjoyable experience for the fans.”
The teams – Tupelo Thunder, Golden Triangle Jets, North Delta Dealers and Tallahatchie Rascals – will play all of their home games at Sportsplex’s newly-remodeled Legion Field.
Each team will have a 20-man roster made up of senior and community college players who have eligibility remaining.
The coaches were also introduced – Shawn Hairald, Tupelo Thunder; Jeff Hunter, Golden Triangle Jets, Doug Robbins, North Delta Dealers and Chris Bail, Tallahatchie Rascals.
The league’s initial signees are North Alabama’s Kevin Williams (Tupelo), Ole Miss’ Kyle Thornton (Golden Triangle), Delta State’s Brandon Hall (North Delta) and Jackson State’s M.J. McWhorter (Tallahatchie). All four are former Northeast Mississippi high school players – Williams (Corinth, Northeast CC), Thornton (Tupelo), Hall (Water Valley, Northwest CC) and McWhorter (East Union).
The league offers in Mississippi and surrounding states an opportunity to play summer baseball without having to travel around the country.
“We used to have to go pretty far away when I played,” said former Chicago Cubs shortstop and Ole Miss baseball coach Don Kessinger, who is one of the league’s player sponsors. “I played wooden bat ball in Illinois and it definitely helped me.”
The owner and commissioner of the CSBL, former Ole Miss and Chicago White Sox player Chris Snopek, said a six-team South Division would play at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson.
There will be two rounds of inter-division play at both sites, an all-star game, and a championship series.
“This gives players an opportunity to sharpen their skills and not have to go out of state,” Snopek said. “Kids can work, go to summer school and play at one location.”
The season opens June 1 with a doubleheader between Tupelo and Tallahatchie. Several season ticket packages are being offered and individual game tickets will be $4 for general admission, $3 for seniors (55-over) and children (under-12).
For more infomation, see www.cottonstatesleague.com or call 365-5552.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal