Split decision for grandparents

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2001

In the top photo, Grandparents Willie and Bea Warnock pose behind grandchildren, from left, Warren Central’s Brent Towne, Vicksburg High’s Corey Hudson and St. Aloysius’ Blake Warnock. Below, the same boys, sitting in the same order, when Brent was 1, Corey was 9 months and Blake was 6 months. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[04/19/01] With nine grandsons who play baseball, Willie Warnock likes to joke that he has his own baseball team.

“I’ve got my own ballclub and a cheering section, too,” he said with a laugh, referring to his six granddaughters, all of whom play softball.

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If that were really the case, his life would be a little easier.

Instead, he and his wife Bea will have to decide which grandsons they can see play. They have one who starts on Warren Central, Vicksburg High and St. Aloysius, all of which begin the state playoffs Thursday.

“I guess I just have to decide,” Warnock said, adding, “but I’ll definitely see each one of them play.”

He wants a Vicksburg High-Warren Central matchup in the North State championship series even more than most local fans. That’s the only way he’d be sure to see two of his grandsons play on the same day.

“I would like that … There’s no way I could lose,” he said.

Still, that would leave out a third grandchild at St. Aloysius … . And if VHS’ softball team would have made the playoffs, that would have added a fourth, Kelsey Hudson, to the equation.

Warren Central third baseman/pitcher Brent Towne and St. Al center fielder Blake Warnock, both senior starters, play here at the same time Thursday at 6:30. VHS junior third baseman Corey Hudson will be in Tupelo for the Gators’ opener.

On Friday, WC goes to Starkville and St. Al goes to West Lincoln, so that makes the decision easy. He’ll go to Bazinsky Field to see the Gators’ Game 2. But if a Game 3 is necessary for WC and St. Al back here on Saturday, it will be another tough decision.

“I try to even it out as much as I can,” said Warnock, whose wife will pinch-cheer for him at Warren Central today as he goes to Bazinsky to see the Flashes.

It’s not surprising that the Warnocks are having to make these decisions. All of their 15 grandchildren play baseball or softball, as did their six children.

“We always had a ballgame going on over here,” Mrs. Warnock said. “Brent cut his teeth on a baseball bat. All of them did.”

That’s why she bought them all matching baseball uniforms at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, a year after they were born.

They don’t wear matching uniforms now, but there’s never anything more than good-natured ribbing when they all get together.

“We just mostly talk about who we’ll be playing,” said Hudson, son of Mike and Tamra Hudson.

Corey Hudson thinks there’s a “great chance” of seeing WC again in the North State.

“That would be nice,” he said.

His grandfather agrees, not just for his grandsons, but for baseball in Vicksburg.

“I’m proud of all the schools,” he said. “I’m just as happy when any of the other players make a good play.”

Fielding was his fort when he played shortstop, and occasionally third base and the outfield, for the Redwood Rockets in the late 1940s. That’s why his three grandsons all of whom he says are a bit better with their gloves than their bats, remind him of himself, especially Blake.

“He got his wheels from the Warnock side,” the proud grandfather said. “I was pretty fast.”

Warnock went on to play fast-pitch softball in the Army, then played in Vicksburg with a YMCA league before having to give it up.

“My job wouldn’t let me keep it up,” said Warnock, who opened Warnock’s Service Center with his brother Albert in 1968.

That business also cut his coaching career short. He spent three years helping his boys’ Culkin team before having to give it up

But now, he’s making up for lost time with his grandchildren.

“I’m in a position now where I can watch my grandkids more than I was able to watch my own kids,” he said.

All of the grandchildren feel lucky to have him at the games, and he feels lucky to be there.

“In 1996, I wasn’t sure I’d still be here,” Warnock said, referring to open-heart surgery he had that year.

His health has limited him somewhat, but it didn’t stop him from going to Abbeville, La., for the regionals when Blake made it to the Babe Ruth World Series in 1997.

“It’s nice to know that I have grandparents that want to see me play,” said Blake Warnock, son of Barry and Brenda Warnock.

“I love him to death,” said Towne, son of Warren and Denna Towne. “It means a lot to have him there. He tries to split it up so he can see us all.

“He just loves baseball.”

That he does. Warnock was one of the few fans left in the stands at the Astrodome when Houston and the Los Angeles Dodgers played for 23 innings.

“You could sit anywhere you wanted to by the end of the game,” he recalled, noting that the teams went 11 innings the next day.

And he hopes to log plenty of bleacher time during the playoffs this year and for the next several years. Even though two will graduate, and likely play college ball, he has more grandsons coming up through the ranks. Chase Towne and Lance Warnock are already on the JV teams at WC and St. Al, respectively. Their younger brothers, Casey and Brady Towne and Drew Warnock, will be next.

And that means more games to watch and advice to dispense.

“They never ask for advice,” he said with a smile, “but I give it to them anyway.”