The Meridian Star
Southeast Lauderdale softball coach Mack Fanning typically roots for the Tigers in every sport. Fanning, a beloved coach in the community, even wears his Southeast ball cap almost everywhere he goes. However, today Fanning will where a different cap, as the Southeast baseball team takes on St. Andrews Episcopal, a team coached by Fanning's son Mark.
“I have to go with my son's team as far as wanting them to win,” Mack Fanning said. “It's a shame I have to make that decision, because I like the young men at Southeast Lauderdale also. They are very good, they play very well and they represent our school very well.
“I watch these people who have a son who plays at Ole Miss and a son at Mississippi State, and they don't know which side to sit on during the game; It's kind of like that. It's an honor for me to coach at Southeast Lauderdale in their athletic program, and it's an honor for me to have a son who competes year in and year out in the playoffs.”
Saturday will not be the first time the two Fanning's schools have crossed paths on the baseball diamond. Mack Fanning coached Mark at Hickory High School which later became Newton County High School. Six years later, he'd be on opposite sides of the same diamond, as Mark became the head coach of St. Andrews High School and traveled back home to take on his dad. The two teams played in back-to-back years with Mark Fanning winning the first meeting in 1998 before Mack Fanning came back to win the second in 1999.
“It was a game where there was no way I was going to lose,” Mack Fanning said. “He won the first game in 1998, but hey, when the game was over it didn't feel like I lost. If he was winning, I was winning too.”
While Mark Fanning said the experience was one he will always remember, he isn't eager to go up against his dad again any time soon.
“To me it was not a lot of fun,” Mark Fanning said. “The outcome really didn't matter, it was more about just surviving the game. I always pulled for his teams to win, and he always pulled for my teams to win, so when we played each other it was tough.
“It kind of went perfect. We went to Newton County, which is my former school, and we won. The next year, he came over here and beat us, so it all worked out.”
St. Andrews (18-13) will host Southeast Lauderdale (22-8) in the first game of the Class 3A South State semifinals. Southeast eliminated St. Andrews from the playoffs last season en route to winning the 3A state championship.
“Coach Shay Cooper has done a great job of putting people in there this season, and it shows with their record,” Mark Fanning said. “We know its going to be a battle again this year.”