Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Sarah Moomaw
Concessions are open, the chalk is smudged, fans are cheering. Youth baseball is back at Phil Hardin Park.
The 7 and 8-year-old summer baseball league sponsored by local companies goes by the common name of Phil Hardin, after the city park it calls home.
The local sponsorship is key to putting on the games, said organizer and Stockton Photography coach Chuck Butler. The league as 10 sponsor, each with its own team. The sponsor is responsible for the uniforms to cut down out-of-pocket costs to families.
"It makes it affordable for parents to put [their kids] in the league," he said. "If we didn't get those sponsors, we have a hard time putting the league on ... We're tickled to death that we get give them a chance to play this great game."
With kids running around in matching uniforms, donned with pieces of the city on their chests, it brings out a type of camaraderie.
"All the sponsor stuff is great," Thomas Refrigeration coach Carl Graham said. "It's good of them to get out and pay, take care of the team the way they do."
Graham also said Phil Hardin brings out the competition in the kids more than spring youth baseball, but it's all about the fun.
"The kids love it, hopefully we'll have a good year," Graham said. "It seems like the coaches want to win more and the players want to player harder."
It's a short league, running for just six weeks but stacking in 18 ball games per team. That generally means playing three nights a week, sometimes with a double header like on Tuesday.
Monday night was suppose to be Opening Night, but afternoon thunderstorms pushed those games to Wednesday. Tuesday night was stacked full of regularly scheduled games.
To kick off the league, Thomas Refrigeration hosted Camper King while simultaneously on a neighboring field, Stockton Photography took on The Meridian Star.
"It's good to be out here," Camper King coach Benji Carpenter said. "Trying to teach these boys how to play baseball, or a little about baseball. We've got a good little team."
A fifth inning rally fell short for Thomas Refrigeration as they lost, 12-3, to Camper King.
"Make the routine plays, you'll win ball games," Carpenter said.
Just over the fence, Stockton picked up an 11-7 victory over The Meridian Star.
"For these little kids, we've have three practices and they've worked really hard and we were hoping they could do a couple things that we worked on," Butler said. "They hit the ball hard for little men."