Red Bay hosts Wood Bat Tournament
By Bart Moss for the FCT
On any given spring or summer day, one can hear the ding of the bats at the baseball diamond. Last week at Red Bay, however, there was a different sound – the crack of the bat.
The Red Bay Diamond Club, a booster club for the Red Bay baseball program, hosted the first Wood Bat Tournament, which is slated to become an annual event.
Seven teams participated in the tournament that featured more than 30 former professional players and former players from Southeastern Conference teams and other colleges. Locally, teams participated from Belgreen, Phil Campbell, Russellville and Tharptown.
Red Bay baseball coach Richard Maggerise said he couldn’t have asked for a better inaugural event.
“I think the tournament was a tremendous success,” said Maggerise. “Everyone had a great time. It allowed a lot of guys who haven’t played baseball in a while to get back on the diamond and be a kid again.”
It was also a time of renewing old friendships forged playing America’s favorite pastime.
“In my case, I got to play ball with some guys I haven’t seen much since graduating high school,” Maggerise said.
Kelby Hallmark, a former standout baseball player for Tharptown, organized a team made up of former Wildcats. Hallmark said he enjoyed the competition and the opportunity to reunite with old teammates.
“It was a lot of fun just being on the baseball field with former teammates and friends and getting to play with my brother (Trevor Hallmark) again,” said Hallmark. “Everyone seemed to have a good time, and we got to use our competitive sides while playing against some other good teams.”
Phil Campbell fielded a team that was made up of some of the alumni of the two-time state championship runner squad from 2005 and 2006 – Kevin and Stephen Lacey, Randy Cochran, Jonathan Dill and Griffin Harris.
“It was definitely a special feeling getting back together with some of the guys we made history with back in ’05’ and ’06,” said Stephen Lacey. “Although it wasn’t the entire team, it was still a great feeling and brought back a lot of great memories.”
Harris, assistant baseball coach at Phil Campbell High School, said he was surprised at the level of competition in the tournament.
“Richard (Maggerise) ran the tournament right,” said Harris. “The talent level was a lot better than I really expected. We saw some really good pitching, and there was a good mix of older guys and younger guys.”
Harris said he also enjoyed being back on the field with his old teammates.
“It was a fun experience. Our team has stayed pretty close through the years,” he said. “Being able to go back and play with those guys was fun. I sure don’t move like I used to though.”
Jon Harville, who put together a team from Tuscaloosa, said it has inspired him to organize a similar tourney.
“This was the first time we have participated in one of these,” said Harville. “This was well-organized, the way it needed to be. I think everyone, including the fans, had a memorable experience.
“We are going to do a tournament at Sipsey Valley High School to help raise money for their baseball program.”
Russell Andrews saw an opportunity and ran with it. Andrews said he was asked by Harville to play on his team but decided to put his own team together.
A former coach at Pinson Valley High School, Andrews started working the phone, and before he was done, he had fielded a team with several former community college and small college players, three current or former Division One players, a former SEC player and two former minor league baseball players. His team, named Burn Up after Burn Up Inc, a company that does maintenance for sorority houses at the University of Alabama, won the tournament, outscoring their opponents 22-6 in four games.
“One thing people who don’t play baseball don’t realize about baseball players is how competitive we are,” said Andrews. “Some of the guys hadn’t played in a while, but it didn’t take long. Once you get on that mound or in that batter’s box, that swagger and arrogance of beating the guy in front of you comes back.”
Andrews, whose team stayed in the Red Bay Hotel during the tournament, couldn’t say enough good things about the way they were treated.
“If there was a drop of heaven,” said Andrews, “Emily Strickland is it. She treated us with such great hospitality. Everything was first class. We ate across the street at a local restaurant called the Mason Jar, and the food and people there were great. It was an awesome weekend.”
There were, however, some drawbacks to the successful tourney.
“I do know this,” said Maggerise, the day after the final game. “After not playing or moving like that in years, my body is very sore right now. I haven’t got off the couch in three hours.”