Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rick Clevelend waxes on about college baseball

My first paying job in life came early. I was 6 years old. Reed Green, the athletic director at then-Mississippi Southern College, paid me to chase down foul balls at baseball games at the old ballpark, now a football practice field.

There was a lot running involved, some dodging of traffic. And it definitely required some people skills. Think not? You try talking a college student out of a shiny, new baseball that he just picked up on his way to class.

At game's end, Green would hand me a silver dollar. I thought I was rich. No telling how much money my work saved the penny-pinching MSC baseball program.

I well remember those games. All were day games because there were no lights. The few fans who attended sat in one small stand of wooden bleachers. There was no charge for admission. There were a few moms and dads and girlfriends, and as my daddy used to put it, “Some folks who just lost their away and wondered by.”

The “press box” was a card table behind the chicken wire screen at home plate. By season's end, many of the Southern players hit with bats that were nailed together. (Yes, young readers, there was a time when college baseball was played with wooden bats. At Southern, when all the bats were broken, they just started nailing them back together.)

You might wonder why Green didn't use that old trick of having fans return foul balls to the concession stand for a free snow cone or soft drink. It's simple. There was no concession stand.

It wasn't that much different elsewhere in Mississippi. I rode with my dad to baseball games in Oxford, Starkville and Cleveland. The college baseball scenes in those locales were spartan. (I well remember covering games at the old ballpark at Ole Miss, where you would see the players sprinting down the street between innings to get to a bathroom. There were no facilities at the ballpark.)

College baseball, back in 1960s, was something mostly basketball and football players did for the fun of it. They scheduled about 24-25 games a year and often didn't play that many because of rainouts. (There were no tarps to cover the fields.)

Now, college baseball is a happening, and our Mississippi schools are quite proficient at it.

I bring all this up because we are embarking on a new baseball season in Mississippi. And, man oh man, how the college game has changed over the past half century.

First and foremost, you have to pay to get in the games these days. If you are lucky enough to get a foul ball, you have yourself a souvenir. If you have the bucks – big bucks – you can sit in luxury suites and watch the replays on TVs.

This past weekend I was in Oxford for basketball games Saturday and Sunday and stopped by the ballpark early on a cool, damp Sunday afternoon. There were more folks, sitting in a drizzling rain, watching a scrimmage game than you would sometimes see at real games 50 years ago. (And they didn't have to run elsewhere between innings to use the bathroom.)

Ole Miss, with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, will open the season at home this weekend against No. 2 ranked East Carolina. Rebel coach Mike Bianco, asked why he would break in so many young players against such a good team, smiled. “Well, they weren't that good when we scheduled them three years ago,” he said.

Mississippi State, under new coach Andy Cannizaro, will play four home games in three days against Texas Tech and Western Illinois.

Southern Miss, where nobody is paid to chase down foul balls these days, will play a three-game set against Northeastern.

All three teams expect to be really good and challenge for NCAA Tournament bids. Division II power Delta State is already off to a 5-1 start.

All the Mississippi schools have been boosted by mostly spring-like weather in January and early February. So in the words of the immortal (and often chided) umpire, let's “Play ball.”

And just keep it if they happen to hit it to you.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The title of this post is incorrect. It should be Rick Cleveland Waxes On About Himself, Like He Does Every Week.

"I remember when I was 6 I chased baseballs..."

Scintillating stuff. Someone notify Columbia School of Journalism. We have a Pulitzer candidate here.

Anonymous said...

Damn. Yall quit reading his columns. Really. It's not that hard. There is plenty of shit that JJ posts that doesn't interest me and I just scroll on down. My phone doesn't blow up. KF hasn't booby trapped his site (oops, I said booby and he didn't label this as not safe).

I enjoy Ricks reminiscing and stories. You dont. Go read about the latest shooting and hate on Jackson. Some people like choclate ice cream, some want peach cobbler. You can't handle it, start your own blog. In the meantime, just shut up.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I miss the old Bloom County strips KF was posting last year. They beat the crap out of this mishmash.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like Rick, don't read Rick. I'm glad KF posts Rick's stuff.

Anonymous said...

It really has become comical the way that Cleveland's articles mention himself most times. Kinds reminds one of Obama and his public addresses.

Cool Bidnessman said...

Rick doesn't write about sports. Rick writes about Rick. It's a dandy bit of narcissism, and it's funny that a few people purport to like it.

If I want to read Rick's BS and comment on it, that's my call. If you don't like negative comments then don't read them, buttercup.

I Remember This Time When I... said...

The contest is on. Who says 'I' the most....Rick or Phil?

"...and it looks like Heartache; And the winner loses all."

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS