Washington 12U all-stars form lasting bond|Team from Tennessee showcases true sportsmanship

Published 11:03 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

Staff Writer

Sometimes, but not often, friendship and camaraderie can break down the inherent boundaries of competitive sports.
More often than not, these stories of compassion go untold while the mainstream media focuses on heated rivalries between hated teams, the vulgar exchange of words between supposed superstar role-models, and negativity in general.
But when the Marshall County, Tenn., 12U Babe Ruth softball team, so gracious in defeat, gave the Washington 12U all-stars “goodie” bags after losing to them in the opening round of the Southeast Regional in Varina, Va., in mid-July, it was an act of sportsmanship that couldn’t be ignored.
So touched by the gift bags, which included items like pencils, MoonPies and SunDrop, all manufactured in the team’s hometown of Lewisburg, Tenn., were the Washington all-stars that they returned the favor.
“Our girls were like, ‘Hey, we want to give them something,’” said Washington coach Wendy Hutchins.
The parents of the Washington players rounded up some gifts and “goodie” bags were given to the Marshall
County, Tenn., girls the next day.
Greg Dority, president of the Washington Babe Ruth softball league and father of 12U all-star Catie Dority, got choked up as he recalled the scene after the opening game.
“They had just lost the game, and they came over and extended a hand of friendship to us,” Dority said. “We were just awed by it. We realized there were some very special people here.”
The gift exchange between the Washington and Marshall County, Tenn., girls soon blossomed into full-on admiration for each other. The teams, moving through the separate winner’s and loser’s brackets after the first-round game, cheered each other on until, as fate had it, they met in the elimination game of the loser’s bracket with a chance to advance to the championship game against Pitt County.
An elimination game that was set up by Washington’s controversial 3-1 loss to Pitt County in the winner’s bracket on the morning of Saturday, July 18. Before the second meeting between the now tightly-knit teams, the girls did cheers and prayed together.
Washington won the Saturday night elimination game 6-2, and advanced to face Pitt County the next day. But before the girls parted ways, they made sure to keep in touch.
“We got their numbers and one of them had a MySpace page, so we talk to them through MySpace,” Washington all-star Catie Dority said.
And to make the memories last, they took pictures together, according to Coach Hutchins.
The Washington all-stars would go on to win the regional after beating Pitt County twice on Sunday, July 19.
The elder Dority was quick to give the Marshall County, Tenn., team some of the credit for Washington’s championship title.
“The Marshall connection was a key part of winning that tournament,” the league president said. “The emotional boost it gave us, making new friends, having a new cheering crowd for us there. It helped us get over the hurdle at the end.”
“All of the Washington community is appreciative of Marshall County, Tenn.,” he added.
The Marshall County, Tenn., team won’t be in the stands to cheer on the Washington all-stars when they open up 2009 World Series play tonight against host Wilson County, but they will in spirit.
The Washington team will belt out the “Big Dawgs in the House” pregame cheer before facing Wilson County at 8 p.m. — a cheer that was taught to the girls by the Marshall County, Tenn. all-stars.
Coach Hutchins wants her girls to appreciate the bond shared by the two teams.
“I don’t know in their ball playing careers if they will ever experience something like that again,” she said.
From the sound of it, Coach Hutchins’ daughter and the team’s starting pitcher, Haley, understands the significance of Marshall County’s original gesture.
“It was my first time seeing anything like that,” Haley said. “We were a little surprised because a team doesn’t normally come out and just give you a gift basket. It was really nice.”