JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jared Evans’ grandfather used to watch him play baseball at the Mac Dale baseball complex. His father, who used to coach his team, is now helping him coach his son’s teams.
It’s the story of a lot of families in Monticello and Lawrence County. “The Mac,” as they call it, has been a hangout for decades. Whether they had kids or not, whether they cared about baseball or not, it’s been the place people gathered to hang out.
“This was the meeting place. Like Neshoba County’s got the fair? We had the Mac Dale Ballpark," said Doug Davis, who umpired for generations at the fields. "We had ballgames going on five nights a week.”
You can’t tell the story of The Mac without Jimmie Ray and Zelda Davis. They owned and controlled the fields until Jimmie Ray Davis died, and some time after that, Mrs. Davis gave the fields to the town of Monticello.
There’s a complex where girls’ softball is played, and recently the board of aldermen has started discussions of moving boys’ little league and pony league to the complex, but those who love The Mac and the history it brings to the county don’t want to abandon it.
“There’s something about every small town in Mississippi that those people care about, that goes back for generations,” Evans said. “It doesn’t look like anything to people who aren’t from there, but to the people that are from there and have deep ties, it means a lot.”
Evans contacted Chris Buttgen, who did videos for the University of Mississippi during the Hugh Freeze era. He said he wasn’t quite sure how his story of a baseball field full of memories would go over, but that Buttgen dove in headfirst.
The video features old film of teams playing at the park, old photos of the people who frequented the park, too, and closeups of the Davises where they could always be found -- Jimmie Ray by the grill, Zel in the convenience stand.
Doug Davis wasn’t related to Jimmie Ray and Zel, but they treated him like he was one of their own, he said.
Doug Davis has good memories even though he was the umpire. He said there was a group of guys that would sit in left field and heckle him through every game, no matter if they knew anyone who was playing or not. Age of the team didn’t matter, those guys were out there, giving Doug all kinds of grief. They were known as “The Potato Chip Gang.”
“The whole Potato Chip Gang, every one of them are gone now except Mr. Wellborn,” Doug said with sadness in his voice. Even though they had heckled him mercilessly for years, at the end of the games, those guys were his good friends.
You would have to pay for one of Mrs. Davis’ famous sausage dogs, he said, cooked on the grill, covered in peppers and onions. Those sausage dogs were known county-wide, Doug Davis said.
“People would come from all over to have one of those sausage dogs and a coke and watch a little baseball,” he said.
But the folks that ran the field never asked for much -- they and other volunteers in the community would care for the field and the facilities.
Evans remembers that too -- he said he used to cut and line the field, and he knew every line had better be straight before he left. He said he’s been waiting for the day he could take his son out there and teach him to line the field too.
The video urges the board of aldermen to understand that “It’s our Sandlot. It’s the greatest little Sandlot ever known,” making reference to the 1993 classic about kids and their baseball field. Incidentally, a lot of the film in the video is also timestamped 1993.
At the end of the video, the deep voice of the narrator urges people to let city hall know that they want “The Mac” to continue in its current capacity. It’s not about a baseball field, Evans said. It’s about family and history and things that are lost to a lot of society today.
“I remember a lot of people that taught me how to play ball, taught me what it meant to take care of that place, and what they’ve meant to the community in general and how people regard them,” Evans said. “That means a lot.”