The Little Things in Life: Landon McGregor’s home run

Yesterday seemed like a normal day, little did I know several hours later, I would have the distinct honor and privilege of meeting and calling the home run for one of the most inspirational kids that I’ve ever met.

Meet Landon McGregor, Landon has Down syndrome and is the bat boy for Alex City Middle School’s baseball team. He has an infectious personality with a smile that will undoubtedly light up a room.

Prior to the first game of the doubleheader, our head coach came up to me and explained the situation to me. He told me to play it up, which I gladly agreed to do under the circumstances.

To lead off the doubleheader, Landon happily walked up to the plate bat in hand. It wasn’t long before Landon hit the ball and was rounding the bases with a huge smile on his face. His trip around the bases was ended with a slide at home plate and kids surrounding him congratulating him on his big hit.

Little did Landon know, his big moment taught me one important thing, the little things in life are really all that matters.

Congratulations, Landon!

Five More Minutes: In Loving Memory of Jody Marie Sanford

We’ve all got that one friend, or even multiple friends, that we feel are immortal. The kind of friends that have been with us through all heartbreak and the joys of life. The highs, lows, and everything included in this rollercoaster ride called life.

I’ve got several friends of that variety, but the one that’s been with me the longest is now at the Right Hand of God.

In fact, eight years ago today, she was called to her eternal home by God. On February 2, 2014, the one that I still consider to be the sister that I never had took her last breath and began that Heavenly journey that she has been on for eight years.

I can only imagine what she has seen over the last eight years in Heaven. I was so blessed to have been able to share 16 years of my life, her entire life, with her.

Although the time we shared together was far too short, we shared a lifetime worth of memories that I’m forever grateful for. Happy memories, sad memories, and everything in between.

By now, you’re probably thinking we had a perfect friendship. But believe me, there were multiple times in those 16 years that we got on each other’s last nerve.

But we never left each other’s side. She got on my nerves some, but I know that I got on her nerves far more than she got on mine.

How do I know that I got on her nerves? Well, if you knew Jody, you know about that side-eyed straight-faced look she’d give. Every time she gave me that look I’d playfully say “What is it Jody? What’s wrong?”

All while continuing to do what got on her nerves, not because I enjoyed getting the side-eyed, straight-faced treatment, but because I knew that it would only be a matter of seconds before she busted out laughing saying “You’re so stupid. You know that gets on my last nerve.” To which I’d pause and say “Yeah, I know. You want me to do it again?” And she’d playfully say, “No, you idiot.”

I’m forever grateful for the lifetime worth of memories that the two of us shared. From the trips to Mardi Gras in Mobile, to spending the summers at the city baseball fields, and everything in between.

On February 2, 2014, I was in the back of the house on the computer at about 4:30 p.m., when mom came running into the room and headed for her closet.

I wondered what she was doing so I asked “What are you doing?” She replied hurriedly “It’s Jody!” I was so confused at this point.

What has she done now? Was it something great, was she in trouble? What was going on? I was completely lost as to what was happening. The next minute my brother comes into the room and takes my phone.

After about two hours, the house phone rings and it’s mom. I pick it up, completely unprepared for what was about to be said on the other end. “Hello?” I said expecting just a normal answer to what was occurring.

I could hear people crying on the other end. Mom replied “Jody’s gone.” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It had to be a prank right?? This just wasn’t possible. I slowly hung the phone up after mom said that she’d be home in a little while.

February 5, 2014 rolls around, the day of the visitation, or viewing as some people refer to it and by this time I had already accepted the role as pallbearer. A role that I wasn’t too sure about taking on, but I knew that she wouldn’t want it any other way.

After all, I’d been with her for her whole life, why not carry her one last time? I wasn’t sure about taking on this responsibility, but I would be doing it the next day at the funeral.

But now, it was time to face my worst nightmare. I entered Thelma Baptist Church, which is about a mile from my house, through the back side door, where I was met by her entire family.

I didn’t know if I had the strength to face what I was going to have to face whether I wanted or not, so her mom and dad escorted me to the sanctuary where the casket was located and her brother and sister walked behind me.

I entered the sanctuary and made a right turn. There it was. There she was. My best friend’s lifeless body laying in a casket. I broke down. I walked up to the casket, leaned down and whispered “You’re safe with me.”

I got there early and sat about mid-ways down the isle. Before long what seemed like a thousand people were showing up in droves to pay their final earthly respects to not only my best friend, but also my very first friend.

The next morning, the funeral was supposed to start at 9 a.m., so I got there around 8 a.m, went inside the sanctuary, sat right in front of the casket and prayed for the strength to get through the day. I can confidently say that I had never heard of an entire school shutting down for a funeral, that is until this one of course.

Afterwards, I looked up and point to the sky and was met with hundreds of hugs from mutual friends that the two of us share. During the funeral the preacher said “Sixteen years…too short some might say, but if it’s a life that was lived and loved, was it really too short?” Those words will always stick close to my heart

That girl loved life. She loved her family and friends, but most importantly, she loved God. She loved hard. You never left her company with the question of “Does Jody love me?” Because she was going to make sure you knew the answer to that question. But if you messed up, or she didn’t like what you did, or how you did it, she was going to give you an earful about it.

She also was a fighter. She fought for those she loved and in turn those of us whom she loved are left here to defend her name and to keep her memory alive.

She stood up for what and who she believed in and you never had to question her loyalty. It was evident as soon as you met her.

As the funeral ended, the funeral director asked the congregation to rise and prepared the casket to be carried out. I stood up, pulled my sunglasses down, even though it was a cloudy day, took a deep breath and grabbed the casket with my right arm.

Once we were out of the church, we loaded the casket into the back of the hearse and I leaned down saying in between tears “This isn’t the end.”

Afterwards I was met with more hugs and words of encouragement to get me through this rough time. At the graveside, I lifted my sunglasses and wiped my eyes with a tissue. Then I was met by more mutual friends that needed a shoulder to cry on, but little did they know, I needed that shoulder to cry on also.

Tell your family and friends you love them, you never know when you’ll see them for the last time. I’d give the world to be able to spend five more minutes with my best friend. Rest In Peace, angel. You are loved and missed more than you will ever know.

Happy eight years, angel. I love you and I’ll see you again one day soon. Until we pick up where we left off, do me a favor and give Heaven some hell.

“Here for the Long Haul,” Wetumpka Head Football Coach Looking Forward to Serving Community

For most people, it takes a while for them to know what they want to be when they grow up. For one high school head coach, it didn’t take long.

Bear Woods was announced as the Indians new head man a week ago. After spending time in both the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL), Woods considers this opportunity a blessing saying “I can’t overstate just how awesome of an opportunity this is that my family and I are grateful for.”

Woods, a collegiate standout at Troy University, and most recently with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Allouettes and Toronto Argonauts, says “it’s a blessing to be at home doing what I love, which is football and to have my wife and my four kids at my side on this journey.”

The Macclenny, Florida, native credits his playing days with putting him “on a journey being able to understand what these athletes are going through and it’s a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

As a young kid in small-town Florida, Woods dreamt of playing for Baker County High School, a rural Florida institution. “There wasn’t a college team or a professional team, all I wanted to do was play for my high school. On Friday nights, I looked forward to being able to carry my older brother or my older cousins’ equipment.”

Woods says “It’s that type of passion and pride that I want to be able to help cultivate and instill here with our community.”

Woods also says “Football is just a platform with which the Lord has blessed me to serve the place that I call home. This is what the Lord intends me to do and to be able to lead young athletes in all sports, both girls and boys, it’s just a great opportunity.”

The faith-grounded head coach says, “This program has no ceiling on where it can go and I’m anxious to serve here.”

Woods has considered the City of Natural Beauty home for a while. “Wetumpka was home before this job and it’s going to be home well after this job, we’re here for the long haul.”

Picture Courtesy: Bear Woods.

400 and Counting: Nine Years in the Booth

Friday, February 18, 2022 may seem like just any other random, ordinary date to you, most readers. But to me, it’s a very important date. Why you may ask?

Because on Friday, February 18, 2022, I will embark on my ninth year as a baseball broadcaster and call my 400th baseball game as a broadcaster. This microphone has taken me so many places that I would’ve never seen if I hadn’t decided to pick up the microphone nine years ago, back in 2013.

I’d wanted to be a broadcaster long before 2013. In fact, its been my dream since I was a six-year-old little boy from central Alabama.

This microphone has caused me to cross paths with some of the most-decorated, highly-acclaimed broadcasters in the industry. Like former Voice of the Auburn Tigers, Rod Bramblett and current Voice of the Tigers Andy Burcham.

As well as Voice of the Troy Trojans, Barry McKnight, former Auburn Tigers quarterback Charlie Trotman and Doug Amos.

It’s been an absolute blessing to be able live out my dream for going on nine years, and I couldn’t ask for a better school or program to represent other than Wetumpka High School Baseball.

If you come to Bazemore Field, on the campus of Wetumpka High School this spring, be sure to stop by and say hello. To me, this industry is about more than a microphone, it’s about providing the fans with the best game day atmosphere possible.

Here’s to 400 & counting. See you soon, Bazemore Field. I’ll be home before you know it.

Staying in the Fight: Indians to host Mustangs in Area Championship Thursday

It’s been a long season, one full of ups and downs for teams all over the State of Alabama no matter what the classification might be.

Every team has their high points and low points over the course of a season, no matter what length it is. Wetumpka (20-7) seems to be hitting their stride at the perfect time.

Indians’ third baseman Kyle Morrison stated “This is just another game to me, we have a lot of confidence in our teammates and we know what we’re capable of doing, all we have to do is take it pitch by pitch.”

Morrison also stated “We don’t want to overlook those guys (Stanhope Elmore), they are a talented group and nothing will be easy in this one, it never does. As long as we compete for seven solid innings, we’ll be fine.”

The Indians return to the friendly confines of Bazemore Field on Thursday for a doubleheader against Stanhope Elmore, whom the Tribe defeated 8-2 on Tuesday in Millbrook, Alabama, at Furlow Field.

With the rivalry between Stanhope Elmore and Wetumpka being one of Elmore County’s best, Morrison uses it as motivation every time they take the field donning the black and gold.

“This rivalry definitely pushes us harder to go out there and be our best.”

He also credits the tough schedule that Wetumpka was faced with this year as a stepping stone in preparing for this moment.

“This schedule has definitely prepared us not only for this moment, but also for the playoffs. We have faced a lot of talented teams this year with bright futures and we’ve our share of adversity, but in the long run that’s what it takes if you want to succeed.”

“This season has definitely taught us some lessons that we will cherish for the rest of our lives, we definitely won’t take this opportunity for granted because it could be taken away tomorrow.”

It’s the Indians and Mustangs, Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore, for the Class 6A Area 5 Championship. First pitch is slated for 4:30pm with a second game to follow if necessary.

A Series for the Ages: Wetumpka set to tangle with arch-rival Stanhope for Area 5 crown this week

It’s no secret that these two schools that will face off in game one of a potential three-game series don’t like each other. The history between these two schools —regardless of the sport — dates back further than most people can remember.

But the rivalry, oh how it’s grown over recent years. In some ways you could say Wetumpka High School and Stanhope Elmore High School — arguably the top two baseball teams in the River Region — have not only the history that would constitute a rivalry, but they also have one of, if not the biggest rivalry in the River Region.

The two squads will collide for the first time in 2021 Tuesday at Furlow Field in Millbrook, Alabama, home of the Mustangs for one game scheduled to begin at 4:30pm.

The finale of the series will commence at Bazemore Field in Wetumpka, Alabama on Thursday. This series is without a doubt going to be a fight tooth-and-nail. Runs won’t come easy. After all when it comes to these two bitter rivals, nothing comes easy.

This is about more than bragging rights, it’s about more than a bat and a ball, it’s two schools that down-right despise each other facing off, colliding head-to-head in one series for an Area crown. Who wants it more?

Embrace the Chaos: The Life of a Broadcaster

Often times, specifically this time of year, between mid-to-late February and mid-to-late April with a possibility of early May, depending on how the playoffs shake out, I’m the busiest I’ll be all year.

I’m away from home more times than not this time of year, whether it’s at my day-job or my night-job as a broadcaster, this time of year is always more hectic than any other time of year, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’d rather be busy anyway, it keeps my mind and hands busy, as a mentor of mine once told me, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

It’s so hard to believe that I’m a little over half way to my ninth year as a broadcaster, honestly it seems like just yesterday I was broadcasting my first game.

I guess the old saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,” is true. Except for me, I’m not just having fun, I’m living my dream and embracing the chaos one pitch at a time.

Returning Home: 315 Games into My Career

It’s hard to believe that in just over a month, I will begin my eighth season as a baseball broadcaster. Honestly, it seems like just the other day, I was standing against the of the home dugout at Bazemore Field when I got the opportunity to broadcast my first game, but we’ll dig back into the vault and pull that out later.

In these eight seasons, I’ve been on hand for 315 games, had you asked me eight years ago if I would be fortunate enough to still be living out my dream 315 games later, I would’ve probably told you, “This is probably just a one time deal.”

But here I am, eight years later and I haven’t been kicked out of the press box yet. And I couldn’t think of a better school to serve as a broadcaster for. I’ve been a member of this program in some capacity, for nine years.

With every passing season, every passing game, every passing minute and second, this program becomes more and more etched into my heart.

When I look back on the previous 315 games of my career, I realize just how blessed I am to live out my dream as a broadcaster. But not just any broadcaster, but the “Voice” of Wetumpka High School Baseball. Over the course of my time as a broadcaster, I’ve seen highs and I’ve seen lows, but I’ll always be thankful for everything that has come my way.

No matter where this industry takes me, I’ll always be proud to say that it all started at Bazemore Field in the small town of Wetumpka, Alabama.

Here’s to the next 315 games of my career. 315 more games worth of memories. I’ll be back home in a little over a month.

Destined for Greatness: A Testimony of God’s Mercy

On the afternoon of December 12, 1997, at 1:50 p.m. I saw this world for the very first time, and some thought I wouldn’t live to see life outside of the four cold walls of that dark hospital.

The first few months and years of my life were spent with trips to and from hospitals. I spent most of my early childhood traveling anywhere from Montgomery, Alabama, to Birmingham, Alabama, all the way to Greenville, South Carolina.

At six weeks old, I was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. Not long afterwards, my small intestines ruptured, I was diagnosed with gangrene, and had suffered a stroke.

Seeing everything that I had been through having just been born, the medical staff basically said I wouldn’t live much longer.

I knew that if I wanted to see the light of day outside of the four walls of that Birmingham, Alabama hospital, I had to put up a fight.

I knew that my life was at stake. I knew I had to prove the medical staff wrong. I just knew I had to fight. Nobody in that hospital had given me even the slightest chance to make it, so it was all up to me.

Thankfully, God had greater plans for my life and saw me through those early horrors. Throughout the nearly 23 years of my life, I’ve survived multiple surgeries.

Through the years, I’ve seen my fair share of tragedy and triumph. At age 16, I lost four of my friends in the same year. With one of them being my lifelong best friend.

Even though I have faced many trials and tribulations in my short time, the one thing that has remained constant is the great and power mercy of God.

He has seen me on my best and worst days and has always remained at my side. Even though I will face much more adversity in the coming years of my life, I have no doubt that God, along with my guardian angels will see that I make it through the hard times safely.

I share my testimony not as a pity on me, but in hopes that my story will touch the hearts and lives of its readers. May it serve as a source of hope and inspiration.

God Bless you all.

Old Foes, Familiar Ground: Wetumpka Hosts Tallassee at Historic Hohenberg Field Friday

It’s been 17 years since Tallassee and Wetumpka have met on the gridiron. The Tigers will travel to Wetumpka’s Hohenberg Field on Friday for their first meeting since 2003.

A Look at the Gridiron Series

The last meeting between the two programs was played at Tallassee’s J.E. “Hot” O’Brien Stadium, with Coach Kyle Glover and the Indians pulling away from Coach Phil Lindsey and his Tigers, 52-7.

At the time of the meeting on August 29, 2003, Coach Kyle Glover was just entering his third year at the helm of Wetumpka, while Coach Phil Lindsey was entering his second season in charge of the Tallassee Football program.

The last meeting between the crosstown rivals in Wetumpka came on August 30, 2002, when Wetumpka claimed a 44-6 victory over Tallassee.

The series with Tallassee dates all the way back to November 18, 1921, a game which the Tribe won 27-0.

The former arch rivals met every year on the gridiron from 1951 to 1997 and picked back up for the two most recent games in 2002 and 2003.

A Look at the Opponent’s Last Game and History

Last week, Tallassee fell to the Reeltown Rebels 27-21 in overtime during the Tigers’ season-opener at J.E. “Hot” O’Brien Stadium.

The Tigers are led by ninth-year head coach, Mike Battles Jr., during his coaching tenure across the Tallapoosa River, Battles is (60-31) with six playoff appearances and a (5-6) record in those postseason appearances with the Tigers.

Prior to taking the job as the head football coach at Tallassee High School before the 2012 season, Battles spent time at Oak Grove High School (1997-2007) and Bibb County High School (2008-2011).

Overall, in 24 years as a high school head football coach in the State of Alabama, Mike Battles Jr is (177-86).

A Glance at Wetumpka’s Last Game and History

Wetumpka opened the season with a 40-10 loss to rival Prattville at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl in the second game of the AHSAA’s Kickoff Classic.

The Indians are led by ninth-year head coach Tim Perry. Prior to coming to Wetumpka in 2012, Coach Perry led the Alabama Christian Academy Eagles from 1985 to 2000.

During his 14-year tenure at Alabama Christian, he led the Eagles to a (73-73) record, including six trips to the postseason.

Later, Coach Perry would land jobs in Nashville and at Central Arkansas Christian School in North Little Rock. Central Arkansas Christian won the Arkansas Class 3A state title in 2004.

In 2007, Perry joined the staff at his alma mater, Harding University. In 2010, he took over at Nashville’s AR, where he remained for two seasons.

In 2012, Perry returned to the State of Alabama, as the head coach at Wetumpka where he has since remained.

During his tenure at Wetumpka, Perry has led the Tribe to a (59-38) record including seven-straight postseason appearances.

In his career as a high school head coach in Alabama his head coaching record is (132-111), in Nashville, Tennessee, and North Little Rock, Arkansas, his head coaching record is (68-19-1), and his overall high school head coaching record is (200-130-1).

Kickoff between the Tallassee Tigers and Wetumpka Indians is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hohenberg Field.

Source: Tannehill Photography.