Live from Hope Mills…

This one was in last week’s Sandspur, which is the weekly paper the Observer publishes for southern Cumberland County:

One of the most valuable lessons in life is the value of teamwork. At Opening Day in Hope Mills on Saturday, even the reporters got in on the act.

After spending the morning tagging along with Maxey Dove, Parks and Recreation athletics supervisor, we encountered a problem.

After he had successfully dealt with late referees, training scorekeepers, moving video cameras off the playing field and a dozen other issues, I was pretty sure he could handle anything.

Fixing a generator was a different story.

Big T’s had a concession stand set up in Municipal Park, and the funnel cakes were flying. That is, until the little Honda generator that was being used decided to call it a day about seven hours too early.

In the interest of shortening a long, boring story, I used my dad’s truck to help Maxey borrow a generator and haul it over to the Big T’s stand.

It ran about 25 minutes before stopping in protest, and only a few taps from a closed knife to what in my uneducated opinion looked like a fuel filter got it roaring again.

So, if you’re keeping score, it took five people, two generators and one borrowed truck to keep Big T’s mobile operation rolling for the lunchtime crowd.

It was the perfect way to sum up a day that was a little surprising.

I had read and heard all about the recent discussions between the town and the Hope Mills Youth Association concerning the distribution of funds. So, I sort of expected there to be some hard feelings about the whole thing.

If there were any, they were well hidden.

Everyone I talked to had the same overall opinion of Saturday’s ceremony, which featured 66 teams, complete with players and coaches, lined up out on the field at Brower Park.

It’s all about the kids.

The HYMA organized the festivities, which included the national anthem, introduction of dignitaries and first pitches. Those were thrown out by Jennifer Bonilla, a Hope Mills native and member of the Puerto Rican national softball team, and Adam Todd, son of longtime Hope Mills coach Allan Todd, who is battling cancer.

“(The HMYA members) volunteer their time. They are the ones that actually set up, manage and run the ceremonies,” Dove said of the HMYA. “We do the schedules, we pay the umpires, we do everything in an administrative support role. They volunteer as coaches. They’ve got a board that sets policies and procedures. They help recruit coaches and do background checks and stuff like that.

“But as far as what we do, it’s months of planning, field prep, grass cutting and weed eating getting ready for opening day.”

Mayor Eddie Dees, sporting his Rattlesnakes T-ball coaching shirt, was one of the original founders of the HYMA in the late ’70s and estimates that he’s been a part of “25 or 30” opening days.

He credits the current passion the community has for baseball to Calvin Koonce, a former Major Leaguer for the Cubs, the 1969 World Series champion New York Mets and Red Sox who grew up in Hope Mills.

“He played at Hope Mills High School and then went on to Campbell and was an All-American there,” Dees said. “He was our first major leaguer, and he gave us a lot to be proud of around here.

“He was later a town commissioner, mayor pro-tem and town manager. I just always felt that a lot of people wanted to grow up and be like Calvin.”

Everyone, it seems, played a role.

It remains to be seen if the next Chipper Jones was toiling away on any of the eight fields in Hope Mills on Saturday. But one thing is certain.

The kids were the stars of the show.


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