Banquet kicks off tourney

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2003

Champions assembled at the Kiwanis Community Center to kick off the 2003 13- to 15-year-old Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Baseball Tournament on Thursday with keynote speaker Scott Hunter.

Ten teams from seven states are participating in the tournament with the winner advancing to the Babe Ruth World Series in North Dakota in two weeks.

Tournament Director Wem Mellown welcomed the players, coaches and fans to Andalusia at the banquet. Mellown sent out a special welcome and thank you to the parents of the players in attendance.

Mellown said the players were "gentlemen" during the orientation sessions held earlier in the day at LBW Community College and thanked the parents for doing such a fine job with their sons. He also thanked the approximately 50 host families who are housing the players as well as the players and coaches themselves.

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson also addressed those in attendance and reminded all of the players they are already winners.

"You're all winners and we are glad to have you in Andalusia," Johnson said.

One of the key themes of the banquet was "fun." Each speaker to step behind the microphone reminded the players "to have fun."

The players were also told how much these host families will mean to them for years to come and become a second family.

Hunter, a former quarterback at the University of Alabama and in the NFL, began his speech with a funny story that did not sound too funny to the Tennessee players and fans.

Hunter, however, told many humorous stories sending laughter echoing off the walls of the Kiwanis Community Center.

Mixed in with his stories were lessons about class, mental toughness and setting goals.

"Win or lose, the way you display your class is the way you display your humility," Hunter said.

"Sometimes you have to suck it up and be mentally tough," Hunter said later. "You may get mad at a teammate or your opponent, but you have to suck it up and be mentally tough.

"Always show your class in every situation, whether you are winning or losing," he added.

Hunter closed his speech by telling the players, most of whom are 15-years-old, to always have a plan in everything they do in their lives.

"Have a plan for the game and have a plan for life," Hunter instructed.

He said the plan may not always work, but if they do not have a plan they are guaranteed to fail.

Hunter also told them where to go for help if their plan is not working.

"Ask God to help with your plan," Hunter said.

The banquet ended with each team being recognized along with the umpires and other tournament officials and guests.

Dwight Mikel, who is serving as Tournament Administrator, wrapped up the evening's activities with a few housekeeping items and two very important words.

"Play Ball!"

For more on the tournament, see Sports Page 8.