LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - If you build the league, they will come.
They came to Laurel in droves on Saturday for Opening Day of the Deep South Collegiate League.
It’s become a summer sanctuary for many local baseball players who were cheated out of a 2020 season.
“With the season being cut so short man, it was hard,” said USM junior pitcher Tyler Spring, one of eight Golden Eagles participating in the league. “I missed it so much and glad to be back out here.”
“We can all get together with some guys in the area and basically get all what we need, and that’s just some innings and some baseball,” said Oak Grove grad Kade Shannon, now a freshman at Jones College.
Colton Caver is the architect of the project – dividing 152 players into eight teams.
Many of the players are local, as is one of the coaches. Former Oak Grove and Southern Miss pitcher Kirk McCarty has replaced his glove for a coaching cap.
“I gotta work on my skills at third base,” said McCarty, who’s in his fourth year with the Cleveland Indians organization. “I almost tripped Zane Berry. I didn’t know I was that close to him. He told me I wasn’t really doing anything. It’s fun, it’s different.”
“Kirk does a good job of keeping our heads straight and not goof off too much,” Shannon said.
McCarty’s club got off on the right foot with a 5-3 win over “Team Floyd.”
Though it’s ultimately in the name of fun, the 80-game season also provides some much-needed live action for players and fans alike.
“Almost every night this past week I’ve hit off the machine,” said USM freshman outfielder Billy Garrity, a Sumrall alum. “I’ll crank it up to close to 90 miles an hour and then you come out here and see like 82, 83. It’s harder to hit this because I haven’t seen any kind of live pitching.”
No, it’s not the American League. Yes, there is some rust to shake off.
But for the first weekend in a long while, we had baseball.
And that is a victory.
“It just felt good to be competitive again,” Garrity said.
“It was just day one and I’m already ready to get back and play another one,” Shannon said.
“Everybody’s spent a lot of time at home lately,” McCarty said. “Now we get to be at our home away from home – on the baseball field.”