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VINTON LEAVING DIXIE LEAGUE

Is the name “Dixie” offensive?

Apparently the “Dixie Chicks” vocal group thought it was, as they recently dropped the “Dixie” and are now just the “Chicks.” I assume we eat so much poultry in this country that there’s little chance of offending chickens. If that was the case you’d see hordes of chickens trying to tear down statues of Uncle Sanders.

Whatever, Salem’s youth baseball teams have been playing in the Dixie League organization for quite some time. I know we were Little League in the early ‘90s when I coached the West Salem Phillies but the city changed to the Dixie League shortly thereafter. The reason given was that the recreation department and booster club representatives thought Little League had too many rules and the dues were too expensive for what we got from Little League.

Well, interestingly enough, the Vinton baseball and softball teams are ready to leave Dixie baseball and the Roanoke Area Youth Softball Association(RAYSA) to join Little League. And, much for the same reasons Salem left Little League almost 30 years ago.

“The move to Little League is beneficial to our club on many fronts,” said Vinton Booster Club President Chris Hairston. “Both teams will be aligned with an international organization that will provide competitive benefits while being more cost effective as the cost of operating sports continues to rise.”

The Dixie League is an organization that is mostly based in the southeastern part of the United States. Little League covers the entire country with an opportunity to play against international competition. If teams continue to win in post-season play they can advance all the way to a nationally televised tournament in Williamsport, PA.

“Little League gives the kids a chance for more recognition,” said Vinton Booster Club Vice President Cody Underwood. “The Dixie League was becoming too expensive and we felt like it had too many rules.”

The Mount Pleasant area teams are also expected to switch to Little League. Cave Spring and Hidden Valley teams have been playing Little League for years. Salem, North Roanoke, Glenvar, Franklin County and Craig County have been in the Dixie League, but Underwood reported that North Roanoke and Glenvar had representatives at the Vinton meeting.

Most of the area softball programs have been competing in RAYSA. In that program teams have a final tournament at the end of the season at the James I. Moyer Complex in Salem and Darrell Shell Park at Penn Forest Elementary School, but that’s as far as they can go.

“We want the girls to have the same opportunities as the boys,” said Underwood. “Little League softball has post-season tournaments where the girls can advance. And, we wanted to have all our kids under the same umbrella.”

The official move is expected to come at the August meeting of the Vinton Booster Club. Anyone who objects to the move is invited to state their case at the meeting, which will be held on Thursday, August 6th, at 7:30 pm at the Senior Center behind the Vinton War Memorial. All input is welcome.

In Salem, Nat Franklin of the Salem Department of Parks and Recreation doesn’t anticipate the Salem teams switching affiliations.

“I would be surprised if we do,” he said. “We don’t want to switch unless everyone else does. Dixie League and Little League are more alike than they are different, but Little League gives you that pipe dream of playing on TV. Baseball in Vinton is a lot like football in Salem.”

Nat would be more eager to see the baseball teams move in the direction of RAYSA.

“The way we are now, it’s a matter of rushing through the season to get to all-stars,” he said. “That’s moving away from what recreation sports are supposed to be. We had a group of 15 and under teams that played in the Roanoke Valley Baseball Association and it worked out great. Salem, Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, Roanoke City and Roanoke County all played in the league.”

Getting back to the name “Dixie,” I’m wondering how offensive that is. Here at the Salem Times-Register we’re at the corner of Main Street and Dixie Drive. A couple years ago Ben Metheney, a long time volunteer for Dixie Baseball, received a service award from the organization and I took his picture with his plaque under the “Dixie Drive” sign. Well, I looked out the window today and noticed that sign is gone. I don’t know if some college kid stole it in the middle of the night to hang in his dorm room or if it was moved for other reasons, but it’s gone.

Also, the Dixie League used to have a confederate flag in their logo. Franklin e-mailed me a photo of an old Dixie League patch and a new one. The old one had a “stars and bars” theme behind a baseball and a confederate flag on the ball. Since then the stars and bars have been eliminated and the flag has been replaced by “est. 1955.”

Nat had a good story about the Dixie League. A representative came by for a meeting and brought some hats to hand out with the confederate flag on them.

“Three of us were black and I couldn’t believe he was giving us those hats to wear,” said Franklin. “We were cracking up.”

 

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