Baseball returns to Mission 66

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, July 1, 2010

Baseball is back on Mission 66.

Four years ago, a private group tried to revive the baseball league on Mission 66. A lack of insurance and community involvement doomed the effort.

Now it’s back thanks to the work of Ernest Galloway, who’s been a coach in various Mission leagues since 1987. This time, Galloway took his idea public and got the backing from the Vicksburg Parks and Recreation Department.

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“There was a need to do this,” Galloway said as he tried to get his young team organized for a practice game Wednesday evening at Fuzzy Johnson Field.

Galloway said he’s trying to follow in the footsteps of the man the field is named for. James “Fuzzy” Johnson worked for the Ciy of Vicksburg for more than 30 years and was a driving force behind previous baseball leagues at the Mission 66 fields.

“I used to play at the old park league back in 1973. Even though I always considered myself a football player, baseball was the first sport I played. Back then it was pretty easy to get started. Now it’s hard. But we have a great group of young players who can be developed. We’ve just got to get things up to speed,” Galloway said.

The first thing was to get the city to spruce up the park. The grass was cut, the infield raked and the field has been properly lined off. A public address system was added but there is still more to be done before the public grand opening of the new Mission 66 League on Friday.

The league will play games on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule through July 19, except for next week because of the July 4 holiday. Games are played at 6 and 7:30 p.m. There will also be a league tournament July 21-23.

“It’s come a long way,” Galloway said of the Fuzzy Johnson facility. “But we still don’t have a working scoreboard. And the bathrooms have yet to be maintained. We just want the whole field brought up to par as the rest of the city’s fields.”

That would be on par with the city-maintained fields at Halls Ferry Park, Bazinsky Field and Bazinsky Park, and the adult softball fields on Army-Navy Road.

Galloway said in order for the league to function and prosper, he had to get the city of Vicksburg involved. Galloway lobbied mayor Paul Winfield for help, and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is overseeing a lot of the organizational aspects of the league.

“The city of Vicksburg is running this league,” Parks and Recreation director Joe Graves said while watching the practice game which featured an official umpiring crew. “We set it up to get their insurance in order and got them affiliated.”

Getting legitimized helped. The new Mission league is affiliated with both Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth Baseball, twof of youth baseball’s largest governing bodies.

“The previous league did not have the insurance and they had no affiliations. We have both,” Galloway said.

Recruiting children to play proved easy.

“We have 52 kids signed up for ages 9 through 12. We also have 35 younger kids interested in starting a coach-pitch league and we’ll play that on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Galloway said. “We will have our grand opening on Friday with the teams dressed and hopefully the community can come out and show their support. We need to get more corporate sponsors and we need more parental involvement.”

Mission 66 Baseball League

The new Mission 66 Baseball League will play games on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 and 7:30 p.m. through July 19 at Fuzzy Johnson Field on Mission 66.