Rupert Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rupert Howell

Walk at Tiger Stadium never a lonely experience thanks to teams, owl

Trying for some semblance of physical activity, my wife Rita and I attempt to walk every day. We are successful about four or five days of the week but still consider a slow walk now better than no walk later.

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I prefer a walk in the woods around my ancestral home, but the short days of winter leave little daylight. We’re not into walking in the dark on uneven, mushy surfaces such as the network of trails we’ve established around our home.

Located across the highway from our business is a quarter-mile paved track around Tiger Field at Dunlap Stadium. It’s nothing new. Many walkers, joggers and runners have taken advantage of this surface at all times of the day and night for years. It has been a real asset not just for  the school but for our whole community.

Over the past few weeks during the cold damp nights we’ve had the track mostly to ourselves, or so we thought. I’m sure many have found the local gyms and fitness centers more comfortable or the call of the couch or easy chair more enticing of late. But usually, walking that track alone is a rarity.

We were pleasantly surprised last Monday evening when there were not only other walkers on the track but two school teams practicing basics on each end of the new synthetic surface on Tiger Field.

Batesville Junior High School coach Amir Hunt had his adolescent junior high boys honing their defensive skills by announcing the situation and hitting the ball to infielders who would then have to think and react by throwing the fielded ball to the correct baseman. Those players will soon be making those same plays by reacting without thinking because these repetitious exercises hone instinct.

On the other end of the field Mississippi’s state championship fastpitch softball team coached by Ashleigh Hicks was lined up across the field getting “down and dirty” without getting dirty as they practiced their gritty sliding and diving and techniques used the past two years when claiming their championship status.

Doing this on their softball field across the road from the high school would have not only been “dirty,” but damaged tender sod now taking hold for the upcoming season.

All of this is to say that the generosity of private donors in Batesville’s business community who sponsored that synthetic surface on Tiger Field should feel proud and know that proponents’ promises that their expenditure would not only benefit the football program, but others as well–are now coming to fruition.

And those who like me prefer a walk in the woods, you should know that there is a certain horned owl who claims the darkened Tiger Field as his territory.

Which makes me think, you’re never alone at Tiger Field.

Who hoots for you?