Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Yalobusha Giants Coach, UM Professor Facilitates Quality Experience in Oxford’s Youth Baseball

By Jake Golob
Hottytoddy.com intern

The National Anthem begins. The smoke from hamburgers on the grill makes aromatic whisps in the stagnant air. It’s a hot day at the ballpark. The last note of the Anthem is played. The umpire puts on his facemask and yells, “Let’s play ball!” The first pitch is thrown. STRIKE! After the inning is over, a group of children flock to a stout, blonde-haired man they simply know as ‘coach.’

That coach, Chip Wade, is also a professor in the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. Wade has been teaching at the university level since 2005, but he’s been involved with the game of baseball for as long as he can remember.

Chip Wade, catcher, ready to make a play at the plate. Found in the sports section of a local newspaper during his high school years. Photo courtesy of Chip Wade.

Growing up in Japan, Wade first learned the game of baseball at 6-years-old. He played other sports, but when he made it to the states baseball was his bread and butter. After countless practices and games, he had made a name for himself. 

“I got drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers, but I chose to go the college route instead,” Wade said.

He played his first year at Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton, Alabama, where he helped lead them to a second place finish at the Junior College World Series.

(From left to right) Ken Cyree, dean of the UM business school, Chip Wade, professor, and Will Norton, dean of School of Journalism and New Media. File photo.

Wade would go on to play baseball at the University of Georgia for two years, spend the summers playing ball at Cape Cod, and then finish his career playing for the Minnesota Twins organization. But he said his achievements playing on the baseball diamond aren’t necessarily his proudest.

In 2007 Wade’s good friend Russ Pratt founded the Yalobusha Giants. According to their website, the league’s mission is to teach the integrity of the game of baseball to help players understand the greatness of the game while learning the life lessons associated with baseball. Wade got involved coaching and facilitating the league soon after its founding. The league utilized the Oxford-Lafayette Sportsplex—located at 878 Highway 7 South—that Michael Perry, a longtime Oxford dentist, founded.

The Oxford-Lafayette Sportsplex—located at 878 Highway 7 South— is a 73-acre multi-sport venue, which consists of seven multipurpose fields, four baseball fields, a 7,000 ft. indoor hitting/pitching facility, and an outdoor bullpen for pitching/hitting instruction. Photo courtesy of Chip Wade.

“The Giants were formed under the premise to provide quality coaching to kids regardless of circumstance,” Wade said. “The idea was to provide kids with good coaching. There’s a lot of people in your life, but the guys that have good coaches always remember that.”

After growing the league for nine years, the community of Oxford was struck with tragedy.

In August of 2016, Perry, his wife, and two other prominent Oxford couples died in a tragic plane crash. In the aftermath of the accident, Wade vowed to see Perry’s vision through by taking over the Sportsplex.

His hard work and determination don’t go unnoticed by parents, they said. 

“He’s trying to keep everything going and keep everything running not only financially but managing all the teams. I think he’s doing a tremendous job,” said Nicole Kamman, parent of a Yalobusha Giant. “He’s always looking out for the kids making sure they are all getting practice in and inviting other kids to his practices.”

Early mornings and long days can take a toll on a coach especially when they’re dealing with bright-eyed and eager children, but for Wade it’s pure enjoyment.

“I enjoy it as much as the kids do. My wife always teases that I don’t really have hobbies. I don’t fish. I don’t hunt. I don’t play golf. I don’t hang out with guys on the weekends watching football and stuff like that. I play baseball and coach,” Wade said.

Wade has two boys of his own, Ford and Gibbs, who also play the sport their father called a profession for 38 years. Wade said he sees the sport from a different angle now, through his sons’ eyes.

“Being able to spend that time with them helping them get to the next point is gratifying,” Wade said.

Often times, children spend as much time with their coaches and teachers as they do their own family and friends. That being said, Wade strives to pour his knowledge and wisdom into the children to help them grow.

“It’s a reward for me to know that I had some part in helping them get to that next point,” Wade said. “College, professional, whatever. People look at the type of person you are just as much as they are looking at how you are athletically. Having an opportunity to impact the kids and see that every day is why I do it.”

As for the impact that the Yalobusha Giants are having on Oxford, it speaks for itself.

“From a community standpoint, we’ve got 24-25 teams now. We started with one. It’s obviously providing a place for kids to come and get a better training and better coaching environment,” Wade said.

Wade said the organization has produced multiple players who committed to NCAA Division 1 schools including BYU, Ole Miss, Louisiana Lafayette, and Mississippi State.

“It really is just about the opportunity we’re providing for kids to come play,” Wade said.

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