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by: Bob Howdeshell
High School Baseball Web

It's different growing up in a small town and being the local sports hero. More is expected of you. Everyone knows your "business." The highs of your success are shared by the entire community. But so are the failures.

Having grown up in a small town in Florida and currently living in another small town in Tennessee I feel qualified to talk about this subject.

With one son playing small college football and another baseball, I have traveled the roads from small town to small town.

In each small town there is an athlete that is special and the local hero. Is he good enough to go on and be a star in college or professional sports? Some are and some are not.

Small town sports writers are kinder and more aware of their area's need for heroes. The late game fumble, missed free throw or strike out with the winning run on third base are not written about with a sharpened knife as they can be in the larger cities.

Small towns like Fort Payne, Pine Knot, Soddy Daisy, Lower Peach Tree, Barbourville, Mayo, Euphoria Falls, TennGA, Americus, Benson and hundreds just like them across the country.

Places that have such events as the National Cornbread Festival, the Big Pig Jig, Toad Suck Daze, Mule Days, Ham & Yam Festival or the "World's Largest Flea Market."

I know of a baseball player here in Tennessee that possibly could be the first player, from a particular small rural county, ever selected in the Major League Baseball Draft.

Can you imagine the excitement for that young man and his family? Now can you imagine the pressures on that young man? What if he is not drafted? What if he is drafted but never makes the big leagues?

In a big city those players just return and go about adult life.

In a small town the hopes and dreams of every member of the community are being lived out through this one player.

It seems as if every small town has a "legendary" player or team come through about once a generation. And this is good. Small towns need this, thrive on it, it is all a part of the sense of community that has really never left the small towns and counties all over the country.

The next time they turn the lights on at the field on Friday night and local football hero is the focus, or in the basketball gym on a cold January night, or better still each spring when nature puts on her most spectacular show and the baseball fields are alive with activity .... think about the excitement, fears, highs and lows of your local "Small Town Hero."

Maybe just a quick thank-you, without his knowing the reason for it would be appropriate.

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