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Youth sports roar back from pandemic / July 29, 2021

When COVID-19 shut down nearly everything back in March 2020 the local sport scene took a hit as well.

The Halifax County high and middle school spring sports season were just starting as was the anticipation of signup dates for Dixie youth baseball. As sports slowly started to return to various communities as the 2020 summer approached, Halifax County Dixie baseball found a way to get back in the swing.

Dave Ashwell, Halifax County Dixie Youth president said then, “We will give the kids an outlet to play ball. Kids get out there and have fun enjoying themselves. They cheer on their teammates with high-fives when a home run happens — they will get this opportunity.”

The league did just that, offering youth a platform to play on even if it wasn’t a sanctioned season. Just getting the kids back on the field safely was the main objective.

Fast forward a year and the league is back in full swing. and growing. Ashwell said this year has been special for the players, coaches and the community.

The Dixie boys program has two teams in the World Series this year in Louisiana. The Halifax Dixie Boys, who recently loss and who Ashwell is an assistant coach with and the Halifax Coach Pitch team which starts World Series play on Friday.

Ashwell spoke of several instances so far this year to bring validity to the, we’re back mentality. He talked of the most recent support Dixie boys teams received playing in district and state tournaments. Ashwell also noted how community provided in some cases those intangibles that a thriving recreational sports program needs to continue getting better.

“I think Halifax is always one of the stronger crowds there supporting the kids” Ashwell said. “I know in Madison Heights there with the Minor League and Ozone we had the local radio station with Dick Long doing; we had a good crowd there.

“As far as our community goes with these kids going to these World Series, the amount of donations that both teams have received - Halifax Dixie Boys and Halifax Coach Pitch - the encouragement, the support is just phenomenal and it’s an accomplishment.”

Ashwell said he believes his Halifax Dixie Boys team represented Virginia well. He said the results didn’t turn out how they wanted it to but we did win a game. Halifax went 2-1 in tournament action.

“I know that our coach pitch boys are going to go down there and represent Halifax and the State of Virginia very well” Ashwell added. “I know they are being talked about on the national Dixie level as how good they are because our team was brought as good our team was coming in.

“This is a chance of a lifetime for them, for a lot of our kids that were 14 years old I don’t think any of them had been to a World Series. It wasn’t like a travel ball tournament where you go out you play, you lose and then you just turn around and play another tournament next weekend.”

Another instance where Dixie baseball and community came together this season was at the Dixie Boys state tournament. The tournament wasn’t supposed to have taken place in Halifax but a last minute change of venue put the local league out front.

“I know when we had to unexpectedly host the Dixie Boys here, found at Friday at noon, went full circle,” Ashwell said with pride. “It takes a lot of people; Kayla Smith who helps us run the concession stand jumped on it with us. But our parents and volunteers stepped up to run the tournament all the way up through Thursday night.

“Without our parents and local support we never would have pulled that tournament off with passion. But that’s how we do things. When something needs to be done we have a group of people that jump onboard and really help.”

Ashwell said he’s proud to be heading up the league. He said one would be hard pressed to find the support that Halifax County affords its young people who play athletics. He noted even this season during the district, state and World Series campaigns technology is helping grow the league through the use of a mobile app, Game Changer. The app allows for a fan to follow the game through livestreaming, video on demand, listening or watching live play-by-play. The app is available for Android and Apple devices

“As someone who is head of the league, I can’t put into words how appreciative I am of every single one of them (community, volunteers, etc.) because it helps promote local baseball,” Ashwell said. “We had it on Game Changer and we had up to 87 viewers live streaming of watching video of the game.”

“So for people to be back home supporting these players by watching, I can put into words how awesome it makes us feel because it’s a great feeling to have that support” said Ashwell. “I’m just overwhelmed and proud of the community we represent in South Boston and Halifax.”

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