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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
October 13, 1999

Batting against a Brave

There was nothing really remarkable about my days in recreation baseball, but looking back, I can say one thing that's sort of neat. I did bat against Atlanta Braves closer John Rocker.
I even remember reaching base, but in a less than spectacular way.
My pre-teen dreams were like millions of kids'. I had visions of making it big in baseball. So my dad worked hard with me, taking me to the batting cage at First Presbyterian Day School in Macon and throwing countless pitches as I tried unsuccessfully to become a switch hitter. Then we'd hit the infield and I'd take grounders at shortstop, before I stepped on the mound and worked on hitting the strike zone with him behind the plate.
I never hit for power, never had blazing speed, never wowed anybody with my fastball. But Pop helped me become a pretty solid player.
I remember thinking I was the stuff at times. I kept up with my batting average and occasionally it would be pretty good. Still, when I reached on an error, I'd often call it a hit. Pop wouldn't try to stop me. "Well, if that's what you want your average to be," he might say, letting me know with his tone that I was acting less like a future Major Leaguer and more like a little kid.
Sometimes I'd boast to friends about my accomplishments on the mound or in the field. But Pop always had a humbling comeback for any bragging on my part.
"No matter how good you think you are, there's always someone better," he'd repeat, something his dad often said to him.
It was humility he was trying to instill in me, showing me that I could always be better, that no one should grow comfortable with the idea that they're the best. But the statement made me mad and I worked hard to prove him wrong.
Yet there were days when I was simply in awe of what my peers could do, how Scott Burgess could make a catcher's mitt pop, how Chris Poiyer could turn on the ball and launch it out of the park, how John Rocker could bring out the sweat beads on the hands of every batter and parent in the park.
He was younger than me, skinny as a rail, his ears pushed out wide by his hat pulled tight over his scalp. He wasn't so imposing then, that is, until he released the ball.
I had played enough baseball to overcome my fear of the ball. I had been hit before and it hurt. Still, I felt tough enough to deal with it.
But Rocker was wild, really wild. And his hissing fastball made me think of a viper strike.
Before taking my first pitch against him, I dug my feet in the batter's box, not crowding the plate, but not bashful. Yet I was soon hugging the back chalk line. And I clearly recall the adrenaline shot I felt as I flung myself down and backwards, bailing out on a high pitch coming toward my head.
I walked against him more than once, just as numerous North Macon Little Leaguers did back then. But a number of us also struck out and shook in our shoes, hoping not to get hit.
I can't say I know the guy, though we went to the same high school, two grades apart. But it's neat to see the success he's had, how with hard work he turned that raw, unrefined talent into Major League ability.
Hopefully, that talent will help lead the Braves to a world championship this month.

Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
October 13, 1999

Frankly Speaking
Pro-Southern groups denied justice

Earlier this month, a regional director of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was attempting to set up a national convention in a hotel in Columbia, S.C. When the hotel management learned of the organization's Southern background, they informed the lady that they did not want her business.
This same hotel chain denied service to members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Mobile, Ala. In a letter explaining their reasons, management said that the company employs a significant number of minorities, predominately African-Americans.
These important people in the delivery of our services find it nearly impossible to work effectively in the environment created during your conventions, they said.
Both organizations exist to honor and preserve the memory of members of the Confederate army and navy who sacrificed so much in defense of principles they held dear. As I proved last week, those principles did NOT include slavery.
This is another case of racist bigotry against Southern whites by blacks and liberals. They have attempted to eradicate every symbol of the old South and its culture. I am of the opinion that their attacks on the South are politically based.
Traditional Southerners believe that individual liberty is earned by individual responsibility. They still hold that each state is sovereign and grants limited powers to the federal government to provide for the common defense, regulate true interstate commerce, and create a court system to settle disputes between states.
The northern liberals think that the federal government ought to be all powerful. They would prefer to abolish state governments and rule the nation from Washington. If they had their way, we would all be slaves of a Northern liberal dominated federal government.
These attacks on Southern cultural symbols are an attempt to discredit the leaders of the battle over states' rights and limited federal government. The anti-south bigots use slavery as a shield to hide their true agenda.
Consider this: if white employees of a hotel objected to serving members of the NAACP, there would be a huge protest. The employees would be branded as racist bigots. The media would be flooded with demands that those employees be fired, that the company make contributions to the NAACP as an apology. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton would appear to lead the boycott.
Yet, when black employees of this hotel chain object to serving members of pro-Southern organizations, the company tucks its tail between its legs and supports their bigotry. The media either ignore the insult to Southerners or praise the bigots for their actions.
A few days ago, I drove up behind a new, expensive car with a well-dressed black driver. On the bumper was a sticker saying, "If you want peace, you must give justice!" Now I ask you, who is being denied justice in this case?

Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.

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