Flashes learn valuable life lessons off the playing field

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007

St. Aloysius baseball coach Clint Wilkerson has become known in his short tenure with the Flashes as an ultra-fiery skipper who conducts brutal practices and is quick with a tongue-lashing.

When the playoffs approach, the competitive fires that drive him burn deeper and deeper. He’s as intense as any coach at any level anywhere.

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So on Tuesday, two days before the start of the Class 1A state playoffs, one would figure to find Wilkerson and his out-of-breath Flashes at their practice home at Halls Ferry Park.

The field was empty.

The Flashes were not practicing.

They were visiting with children with cancer at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children at University Medical Center in Jackson.

&#8220You know it had to be something big for me to cancel practice,” said Wilkerson, who loaded up the team on the bus as if they were going to an away game. &#8220I just felt that this was more important.”

The team has been practicing baseball since Jan. 6. They won the Division 7-1A Tournament and are scheduled to play Edinburg tonight at 7 at Bazinsky Field.

&#8220What else can we do?” Wilkerson asked.

The third-year coach visited a similar hospital while he was a player at Louisiana Tech, and again while playing in Baton Rouge. It had such a lasting effect on him, he knew he had to let his players experience it.

The Flashes played board games and Nintendo with young patients. They laughed and smiled with each other.

The visit didn’t last long enough.

The bus ride home was eerily quiet.

The Flashes will never forget it.