Experience pays off for Starkville 7-year-old group

Starkville 7-year-old Dizzy Dean All-Stars

Staff Writer

There were many lessons learned by the state of Mississippi’s Dizzy Dean 6-year-old champions a year ago in what they experienced.

Competitive baseball was something new to those players as they were beginning their first Dizzy Dean season, but it just felt natural to the group. Those All-Stars finished second place in the South State Tournament in Starkville, yet they came back the next day and won the Overall State championship. From there, they went to the Dizzy Dean World Series and played against some of the best teams in the southeast and finished fourth in their age group.

All of that experience paid off as this group became 7-year-olds and have rolled through every team in their way this year.

Starkville went 8-0 in two warm-up tournaments prior to last weekend. It then went to Houston and won the South State tournament and finished off the run the next night in Hernando with another Overall State championship.

So what’s been the key to success for this young group?

“The biggest thing is that nine of them played baseball together over the last two years," Starkville coach Allan Smith said. "You just can’t substitute getting out there and playing. Between last year in the World Series and playing in the spring, they have all of that playing experience and it’s paid off.”

In Houston last week, Starkville went through Newton County, Houston, Louisville and Columbus in the span of four days. It beat Batesville and Greenwood on Monday to cap the state championship and they outscored those six opponents 95-19.

Smith said that he’s already seen a tremendous jump in improvement in just one season of baseball for the players, though most of it has been on the players’ own understanding.

“We really don’t show them but a few times on stuff," Smith said. "It’s amazing how fast they’ve learned the game of baseball. The game of baseball is all about the small things. All of the small things add up to be big things and it’s amazing how they pick up on it as quickly as they have in 13 months.”

There’s still quite a bit of baseball to be played by the youngsters and failures will come along with the success.

What Smith and his fellow coaches have tried to incorporate with the kids at a young age is to count their opportunities as a blessing. On top of that, he wants them to be competitive but win and lose with class. Most importantly, he wants them to enjoy what they’re doing.

“I’ve just preached from day one that they can control their effort and their energy,” Smith said. “I’ve always told them that I love them and if we win, it will be alright and if we lose, it will be alright. God is always a priority in everything we do. We have prayer and I talk about God and that’s the number one thing for us. I just want them to understand that God loves them, their parents love them and I love them.”

It’s still unknown as to whether Starkville will take part in the World Series set for next weekend. Smith said that the players and parents enjoyed their experience last year, but they haven’t come to a decision on their plans at this point.