It has been a long time coming, but the Hattiesburg Tigers baseball team is finally returning home.
The Tigers' home ball park, legendary Smokie Harrington Park, suffered much damage from the Feb. 13, 2013 tornado that swept across the Pine Belt.
The Hattiesburg baseball team has played "home games" anywhere in town they could find, including Southern Miss and William Carey.
On Friday night, the Tigers will return to play at Smokie Harrington Park after three years of repair work, as they host Sumrall and former Hattiesburg head coach Larry Knight.
"There's a lot of emotion about this coming Friday night, and we're excited about hosting coach Larry Knight and the Sumrall Bobcats and our fans are excited about seeing a home game played here after three years," Hattiesburg head baseball coach Joe Hartfield said Wednesday.
It will be especially sweet for the seniors on the Hattiesburg baseball team because they have never played a high school game at Smokie Harrington Park. "There's not one kid on this team that has played a home high school ball game at Smokie Harrington ball park. So they're really excited, especially the seniors, because they've had to travel their freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. So this is going to be an exciting time for them," said Hartfield.
There could not be a more fitting opponent for the Tigers on Friday night than Sumrall, led by Knight.
Knight was the head baseball coach at Hattiesburg High for 13 years, winning four state championships with the Tigers, before heading to Sumrall.
He also played high school baseball at Hattiesburg High, and Knight said he is excited to be able to be there for the reopening of Smokie Harrington Park. "I'm very happy to see that they're getting a chance to play there again, and thankful for Joe (Hartfield) for inviting me and our program to come over and play because it's one of those things that I feel honored to do and know it's going to be a great ballgame," Knight said.
Hattiesburg and Sumrall will throw out the first pitch Friday night at 7 p.m.