The Meridian Star
In the midst of the adult softball summer league season, the Sammie Davidson Complex was swarming with non-league play as the Ben Hammond Endowment Scholarship Fund Softball Tournament took over the fields on Saturday.
The tournament was held in honor of Southeast Lauderdale student, Ben Hammond, who died in February at 13 years old after a farming accident.
The Hammond family started the scholarship at Mississippi State University with the funding raised though Saturday's — and future — softball tournament to marry his love of sports and the Bulldogs into an event in his honor.
The tournament kicked off at 8 a.m. and was expected to run until close to midnight before naming a champion in each divisions — mens and coed.
Peggy Keller, Hammond's aunt, said you couldn't have asked for better weather with partly cloudy skies and a light breeze cutting the heat.
A total of 32 teams registered for the tournament, coming from around the area and across the Alabama border.
"Overwhelmed, would be the word I would use," Keller said of the turnout. "Just wonderful people, just the personalities of people. [They] are here to have fun and support the cause," Keller said.
One of those teams was Trail Ends, which was composed of family friends from Trails End River Camp area of Alabama.
Team member Amanda Rawson knew Hammond personally and said going to the river was one of his favorite summertime activities.
That bond and friendship drew the group of friend from the river to put together a team for the tournament coached by Anthony Rawson.
"We all kinda wanted to play some ball," he said. "It's kind of a thrown together deal. We're enjoying it, doing pretty good."
Trail Ends won their first game of the day, but a loss in the second dropped them to the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament.
"We're going to try and fight out way back," Coach Rawson said. "We've got a good little team, with some tough girls. ... The girls are what's pulling us through today.
At 4 p.m., as Trails End got underway in their third game of the day, a fly over of three planes celebrated Hammond's life.
"We had no idea until just before," Keller said. "It was so special."
At press time, the total raised for the Ben Hammond Endowment Scholarship Fund wasn't totaled, but the goal is $25,000 over the next five years. Saturday's tournament marked the first annual event.
All proceeds from Saturday's registration, concession and t-shirt sales are going directly to the fund onto of additionally donations made in person and through MSU.
"The donations, even to just the fund, has been overwhelming to us," Freda Hammond, Ben's grandmother, said. "It's just been great. We're really happy."