By R. Alan Richardson Sports Editor
Finally, the Morgan County Softball Team has its own home field located with all the others that house the baseball fields and facilities. The girls, coaches, BOE, and community can now breathe a sigh of relief that it is ready for opening day. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held before the last scrimmage of the pre-season against Madison County. The Lady Diamond Dogs have already played their first regular season game with the next five being played on the road at the Peachtree Ridge Tournament. The first home game is scheduled for August 18th at 5:55 vs. Jackson County in an 8-AAA region matchup.
Before the proceedings began Lance Alexander said, “I was in the first little league group to play on this field in 1976 so when I found out they were going to tear it down, I came up here to get me a memento. I dug up home plate and it was the first stolen base I ever had in my life. Seriously though they invited me here as a recreation department representative to signify our joint use agreement with Morgan County High School and the school system.” Those in attendance spoke in front of home plate to a large crowd of former players, parents and community members. The guests of honor included high ranking individuals who had taken part in this massive undertaking over the past several years. Head softball Coach Doug Connelly began the ceremonies with these thoughts, “I left the field late last night and just lingered around enjoying the lights on, freshly mowed grass, and lines painted on the field thinking that this dream we’ve had for so long had finally come to fruition.
Today we finally get to play at our new home. All the community members, administration, parents, players, and coaches that were involved in this would see the conclusion of all their hard work when the girls step on the field tonight.” Next to the podium stepped Morgan County School System Superintendent Dr. James Woodard who stressed, “We are very excited to have the opportunity to provide the Morgan County High School Softball team with a state of the art facility. The team can now call this ‘home’. The investment in this facility represents our commitment as a school system to address facility issues in all of our schools for all of our students. We are proud to invest in our young people.
This is a momentous occasion for all the excited young ladies in the dugout today.” Athletic Director, Steve Cisson made these remarks, “Several years ago I was very concerned about the lights on our baseball field falling down. They had woodpecker holes in them and were in disarray, but we couldn’t spend money on property we didn’t own. Three and a half years ago I walked around these fields with Dr. Bennett and Lance Alexander and it has taken some dogged effort by a lot of people in this community to acquire this land. When we had a change of administration with Dr. Woodard coming in, everyone was a little worried that the project might fall by the side but he was all on board with it right off the bat and followed through. For that I am thankful.
What I’ve learned about Dr. Woodard is that if it’s about what’s best for the kids, he’s all for it. He wants the best facilities and a safe environment and proved that right away. I also want to thank CFO Libby Whitaker, Andy Vaughters, Parrish Construction Group, and Coach Connelly for all their hard work over the past 10 months making sure everything went as planned. Thanks to all these folks for helping us get the field we wanted, not what somebody else wanted. I left the field last night at 11:00 and Coach was talking about all the stuff he still had to do. I don’t know if he spent the night here or not. He’s going to be coaching what you’ll find this year to be a very good softball team. Girls, this is your field. You need to take care of it, go with it, and treat it like it’s your baby.” Senior second baseman and three-year team starter, Hannah Carver, was next with this, “I’m mad at Coach Connelly for making me do this speech, but he coached me up on it so here goes. What a blessing it is to be on this field today, a day we thought would never come. Since our freshmen year these seniors have eagerly awaited. Getting a new field was the only thing that consumed our thoughts. I guess Connelly would have wanted us to worry more about a first and third call or getting on top of the ball. He kept telling us maybe next year when we asked him about it. Well, the Lord heard our prayers but also taught us a lot about patience and to never give up. This field exceeded our dreams and expectations and will be cherished forever by each and every one of us. Thanks for all the community support and for making this our new home. We hope to go all the way to a state championship this year. What a better way to give thanks for this field than bringing home a ring would be.”
Parent Robin Couch who has two daughters on this year’s squad and two sons who are heavily involved in a number of other sports gave her thoughts. “I just want to say this is so great. There’s a difference between being the home team and playing on your own home field. We are thankful to the Recreation Department for allowing us the use of their field, but it means so much to now have a home field as the home team. This is such a treat. I’m so proud for the girls and know they’re excited about this.” Connelly returned to the podium with these final remarks, “First I have to thank my wife and kids for riding all over Northeast Georgia looking at all the other best softball facilities I could find. There was some trepidation when Dr. Woodard came, but I’m thankful he came in and kept the project going. Getting on this side of the bypass and having the baseball and softball facilities together was important in growing both programs. Coach Merritt Ainslie (Head baseball and assistant softball coach) and I worked closely together on this. We affect over 85 students every year so being right next to each other is an advantage for both of our programs. The vision is that this will be our crown jewel where little girls will drive by and say to themselves that one day I want to play here. Our route has taken us through Heritage Park, Bill Wood Park, to here, but let me say that even though we were tenants there we had some very good landlords. The Recreation Department, Lance Alexander, Jay Doss and many others worked with us to make us feel like it was our home thought it really wasn’t. There’s nothing like owning your own home. It is the responsibility of the future players and coaches to make sure this facility is taken care of. Rest assured it will be. We hope that five or ten years from now that this field will not just be the same, but even better. Thanks for coming to our house-warming party today, but we have some more soirees planned for this season.”
Steve Cisson was asked to throw out the first pitch and it looked like the old man’s still got it. The right-hander just missed on an inside overhand fastball. His accomplishments include three state softball championships in 2002, 2003, and 2005, the only state championship in girls’ basketball history in the 1980’s, a forty-year career of coaching and teaching that included a long stint as the football defensive coordinator under Wayne Bradshaw and Alvin Richardson as well as a successful baseball coaching run. In those 40 years (all at MCHS) he has mentored, coached, and been a positive influence on literally 1000’s of young men and women of our county.
We salute you Coach Cisson. Thanks for caring about our children. We’re certainly a better community because of you and your impact.