By Mark Clark
There are moments when the good in a community shines.
Such a moment occurred last week when Phenix City Youth Baseball stepped forward to lend a helping hand to a group of foreign visitors at the 2018 Cal Ripken Jr. 12U/60 World Series at the Idle Hour Sports Complex.
While watching the Bonkid China team from Beijing play its second pool game at the event, Phenix City assistant coach Charles Woody, PCYB President Chris Rogers and Jennifer Lowman with Phenix City Economic Development noticed the only foreign team in the tournament was playing in tennis shoes instead of cleats. They all agreed that was not right and they took matters into their own hands to try to rectify this wrong.
“The Bonkid team is from a new league being started up over there. They came to experience how the game is played over here. We – Chris, Jennifer and I – were just watching them warm up and noticed they didn’t have cleats. We kind of felt bad for them. We started trying to find a way to get them some cleats,” Woody said.
Rogers contacted Robert Robertson, the manager of the Phenix City Hibbett Sports store and explained the problem. Robertson did what he could and provided PCYB a discount. The players from China were fitted and provided the cleats they needed thanks to the local organization.
“All the kids were fitted and all the kids got shoes. The league paid for the shoes. We just wanted people to know we’re here for the community,” Rogers said of the PCYB action.
The gesture did not go unnoticed by Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken Jr. organization officials. John Pearson, assigned by the organization to the Task Force for the tournament, was quick to give his opinion about what the local organization had done.
“This is the best thing I have seen a league do in a long time. Phenix City people did not have to do what they did. They volunteered to get the cleats for the kids. Phenix City wanted the kids to enjoy the same experience and same opportunities as every other team here. All the kids from China are in cleats and thankful to the local people for getting the shoes for them,” Pearson said.
Phenix City councilman Steve Bailey, who attended the games over the weekend, said he was proud of the PCYB officials.
“Part of events like this is to show and teach sportsmanship. The Phenix City folks have done that with what they have done. Kids are kids no matter where they are from. They all deserve to build their lives on good memories. If what was done had to be done for any team, I am glad it was China. One day these players will grow up and maybe they will remember this tournament. Maybe they will remember what was done for them by the folks over here. Maybe it will help them see us in a better light,” Bailey said.
The team from China, managed by Xiao Zah Tian and coached by Xiu Shaung Ma, is a team from a new Cal Ripken Jr. baseball league in the Communist nation. The Cal Ripken Jr. organization brought the team to the World Series so it could see how the game of baseball is played in the United States and to gain the experience of playing in the tournament. While the team did not have as much success on the field as it did in the hearts of the tournament organizers, it was a good first step for Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball to spread its brand to another country. The team said it is thankful for the experience and to the Phenix City organization for its gesture.
“It was like watching children on Christmas morning getting presents. The kids from China were so excited to be getting cleats. They kept thanking us for doing that for them. We just wanted to be hospitable. It’s all about the kids. That’s what we wanted people to know. It’s all about the kids,” Woody said.