Meridian Star

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March 7, 2013

Cleveland speaks at Rotary Club luncheon

MERIDIAN —     Sports in Mississippi is not a pass time, but a lifetime.

    Mississippians live and breathe sports of all kinds. They embrace the smells of the grass baseball field in the summer, the sound of clashing pads in the fall, and the sight of a young athlete launching a shot toward the goal at the buzzer. Sports in Mississippi are where dreams are made and heroes are born.

    Rick Cleveland, the award winning newspaper sports journalist and columnist has been watching and writing about these heroes for over four decades. As the new executive director for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson, Cleveland is now tasked with preserving the rich legacy of Mississippi.

    "I retired to more work," Cleveland said as he addressed a packed Meridian Rotary Club luncheon Wednesday at Northwood Country Club. "My friends tell me, 'Welcome to the real world.'"

    Ten months ago Cleveland retired from the Clarion Ledger in Jackson after decades of interviewing and writing about some of Mississippi's most famous sports figures. In becoming executive director for the museum, Cleveland now finds himself in uncharted territory.

    "I'm still playing catchup," Cleveland said. "To use a baseball analogy, I'm used to taking one pitch at a time as a columnist but with this position I have to adjust to having 25 pitches thrown at me from all directions at the same time."

    The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum exists to tell — and preserve — the stories of Mississippi’s greatest athletes and coaches, who are some of the world’s greatest athletes and coaches.

    As Cleveland pointed out, what other state can boast the leading scorer and receiver in NFL history (Jerry Rice), the leading passer in NFL history (Brett Favre), the second leading rusher (Walter Payton) and the patriarch of the first family of football (Archie Manning)?

    In April 1991, the Mississippi Sports Foundation was conceived.

    Operated by the Mississippi Sports Foundation, Inc. (MSF), a non-profit corporation established in June 1992, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum occupies 21,542 square feet on Lakeland Drive in Jackson. The site, donated by the City of Jackson, is adjacent to the Jim Buck Ross Agriculture and Forestry Museum and across from Smith-Wills Stadium.

    The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum employs advanced media technology to create an exhilarating sensory experience for visitors, not only from Mississippi but from across the country and around the world.

    Interactive kiosks dot the museum. During their self-directed experience, visitors can retrieve archival footage, interviews and achievement data at their own pace with just the touch of a finger. The museum is designed for visitors to learn by doing, listening and reading.

    "The museum exists solely on donations," Cleveland said. "Our funding comes from corporate and private donors, the selling of memberships and from the tickets sold at the door."

    The cost to enjoy the museum are $3 for students, $5 for adults and $3 for seniors.

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