Mayflower/Vilonia Tornado Benefit Baseball Game Memorable for All

Joe Albritton  met University of Arkansas coaches Bret Bielema and Mike Anderson, conducted a national television interview and gazed into the stands and saw more than 8,000 fans fill a stadium to watch his team and more importantly support two battered towns.
As the pregame pomp and circumstance finally wound down, and the first pitch was near, the quirky, Duck Dynasty-bearded look alike was overcome with emotion. The fiery Mayflower coach barely held back tears as he began to pace in front of the dugout just before he took his place in the third base coach’s box.
It was a sentiment shared by many who attended the game at Dickey-Stephens Park who saw Albritton’s Eagles take on the neighboring Vilonia Eagles in a non-conference game.
The thousands came to support, both morally and financially, the tornado ravaged towns and their teams, who are both enjoying successful seasons. With the large crowd, and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and other dignitaries in attendance, the game had a state championship feel. But many in attendance could have cared less about the outcome. They were there to lend a hand.
Still, baseball was the backdrop, and like it has so many times in history the game helped comfort in the wake of tragedy. For two hours families who have had to pick up their lives one piece at a time left their troubles behind. They cheered, hugged and celebrated.
In less than a week, an idea blossomed into the most infuential high school sporting event in state history, and the crowd was the largest to watch a prep game in state history. Even in a week, organizers were able to pull off a nearly flawless production. Dickey-Stephens Park, the home of the Class AA Arkansas Travelers, was the perfect host with its vast seating. Club officials were on-point with their operations. The pregame ceremonies and video taped messages from Major League Baseball Arkansans were all memorable and executed flawlessly.
Vilonia won the game 3-0, but there were no losers. Every person at the ballpark won, as the benefit raised nearly $130,000. It was a great night for the players and their families and the communities they represent. Good things do come out of tragedy. Tuesday night was proof.