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Sportsmanship, kindness wrapped in a pair of shoes

Sportsmanship can take a lot of forms. It can be as simple as a postgame little league handshake, or as complex as a grudging respect between elite professional athletes.

In this case, it was an old pair of cleats.

When Callaway rolled into Viking Field for Game 1 of its Class 6A baseball playoff series against Warren Central last week, it was the definition of a David vs. Goliath matchup. Jackson Public Schools teams aren’t exactly known for their baseball prowess, and the Chargers were a perfect example.

Half of Callaway’s roster had been ruled ineligible because of poor grades, leaving them with only 12 players. They had one coach. Warren Central has 31 players on the roster and five coaches. Adding to the ragtag feel of the Chargers, their third baseman A.J. Cannon forgot his cleats and was trying to play in tennis shoes.

Upon hearing about that, Warren Central coach Conner Douglas sent someone to the fieldhouse and, from somewhere in the storage bins and closets, they produced a pair of cleats for their opponent to use.

Warren Central, predictably, won the game fairly easily. Afterward, Cannon jogged back toward the Vikings’ side of the field to return the cleats to Douglas and thank him for their use.

Douglas refused.

“Why don’t you hang on to those? We don’t need them,” Douglas said.

Cannon’s eyes grew wide as it dawned on him what Douglas was saying.

“You mean I can keep them?” Cannon said with disbelief in his voice.

Douglas confirmed that that’s exactly what he meant. Cannon turned and bounced back toward the other dugout like a child who had just gotten a great Christmas present.

To Douglas and his team, the cleats were just an old pair of shoes. Who knows how long they’d been in storage? If he took them back, they’d probably go right back into a closet. Maybe the next time they’d be seen is when the team has a work day to clean up the fieldhouse.

To Cannon, they were obviously a priceless gift. Maybe he had forgotten his cleats, or maybe he never had any to begin with. Either way, it didn’t take a genius to figure out who they were worth more to.

Warren Central and Callaway don’t cross paths often in baseball. That was the first time they’d faced each other in at least a decade, and they probably won’t see each other again any time soon.

That one small act of sportsmanship and kindness, however, will live on for years.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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