Sports Columns

June 16, 2014

All-star events start today in Chattanooga

The Riverbend music festival is once a year. You miss the popular Chattanooga event, and you can buy a new calendar and mark the days to prepare for the next.

All-star professional baseball, however, does not come to Chattanooga nearly as often.

After Tuesday, you’ll need to wait 10 more years before the opportunity comes around again.

The 2014 Southern League All-Star Game is Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at AT&T Field in Chattanooga. Tickets are available on the Chattanooga Lookouts’ website, www.Lookouts.com, or by calling the Double-A minor league box office at (423) 267-2208.

However, like Riverbend, the all-star festivities aren’t limited to one day.

Today’s schedule includes an eight-player home run derby at Engel Stadium starting at 7 p.m. An hour before, the league and team will host a six-player youth home run derby associated to the Revitalizing Baseball in the Inner City (RBI), an MLB initiative.

Lookouts general manager Rich Mozingo explained the league rotates the all-star game’s site among the 10 teams. He also said, “Professional baseball hasn’t been played (at Engel Stadium) since 1999.” The Lookouts, who have called Chattanooga home since 1885, play home games at AT&T Field.

Fittingly, Mozingo called hosting the all-star game “one of those really cool things you can have happen to you.” While it’s a busy time right now, he hopes to reminisce with enjoyment one day.

“These are the very best of the best in the Southern League,” he said. “It’s a really cool event for our staff to be part of.

“Hopefully, this is one of those things we can give back to our community and make it a fun event.”

Before the game, there will be a luncheon for the all-stars with guest speaker Maury Wills. He was a three-time World Series winner (1959, 1963 and 1965) and the 1962 National League Most Valuable Player with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Lookouts’ current Major League affiliate. The luncheon begins at noon, and tickets cost $30 and must be bought in advance by calling the team’s box office (they cannot be purchased on the team website). All proceeds benefit the local RBI organization.

Wills played with the Dodgers from 1959 through 1966 and again from 1969 through 1972 before retiring. He also played two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and one with the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals).

Wills isn’t quite sure where his speech is headed, but he believes his message will be about “having an open mind” and eliminating the fear of failing. He said his target audience is the minor league all-stars. He played for nearly eight years in the minors before reaching the Dodgers’ roster.

“Once you have a fear of failing,” he said, “you greatly diminish your chances of success.”

He noted his childhood dream “was to be a Major League player” because of an interaction he had as a child with a Washington Senators player. Wills noted he grew up in public housing in Washington, D.C. He signed with the Dodgers when he was 17.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to say until I get to the microphone,” Wills said. “I know I’ll talk about something that will be interesting to the all-star players. Hopefully, the folks in the audience will enjoy.”

• For all the youth and high school football players in the area, you’ll have the chance to get a few pointers Friday from an NFL player.

The Concerned Citizens of Dalton, in conjunction with Y-Sportz Camps, will host a football camp featuring Buffalo Bills safety Da’Norris Searcy from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Dalton High School. This non-contact camp is for ages 6-18 and costs $40.

Searcy, of at Towers High School in Decatur, played at the University of North Carolina before being drafted by the Bills in 2011. The camp includes lunch, a T-shirt and autographs from professional players. Registration is available in advance at ysportz.com and starting at 9 a.m. the day of the camp. To learn more, call (770) 542-7856.

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