A Punishers Baseball player puts a ball into play during Sunday’s 12U gold bracket championship game at the Day Complex in July.

The Halifax/South Boston Dixie Youth Baseball season is getting ready to wrap up their most unique season in program history and as it comes to a close, acting president David Ashwell took the time to look back on what made this season special.

When it came time for the regular Dixie season to begin, COVID-19 shut everything down and for a while it appeared that the youth in Halifax County were not going to have a season at all, but Ashwell along with the board worked tirelessly to make sure that the kids had a chance to play baseball this summer in some fashion.

The board was given permission to proceed with planning a season, and they collectively decided that this season would be the year of sandlot baseball. “There was no pressure of making a school team, playing for a travel ball ring nor did they have the pressure of making an all-star team this season,” Ashwell said. “Players participated because they wanted to be with or make new friends and because they loved the game,” he added.

The pressure free atmosphere amongst the players, coaches and everyone involved this year made for one of the more enjoyable seasons. “As a president, coach and dad it has been a pleasure to watch all levels of ballplayers playing the game the way it was meant to be played at a recreational level,” Ashwell said.

There were many changes this season not only on the field, but changes that included uniforms and concession stand modifications as well. Ashwell and the board made the decision to go with two common uniforms that listed all of the team sponsors on the back instead of each team getting one sponsored team. “Before when the sponsor was front and center they were only on 20 shirts per team. With this new design the team sponsor was listed with all of the other sponsors on roughly 1,400 shirts that are worn more frequently,” Ashwell said.

The league also went with better hats for the players and coaches that Ashwell said he has noticed being worn regularly out in the community. He went on to thank Janice Glasscock and her family for their efforts to keep the concession stand stocked and available for everyone at the games.

The 2020 season also was a big one thanks to the monetary donation from the family of Harrison Conner. Conner ran the Halifax South organization for many years and was successful with the program and for building three more fields at the Cluster Springs Ball Park. Conner died earlier this year and his family made over $90,000 in donations to local programs. “It was one of the largest donations we have ever had, and words cannot convey how much we appreciate this selfless gesture. What Harrison Conner did for Cluster Springs baseball and Halifax County was amazing. He always had a vision of what baseball should be like in this county, which resulted in the creation of a successfully run program in the Cluster Springs community,” Ashwell said.

The league also was able to help out one of their own in a time of need as well. Ashwell said that one of their minor league players father was burned really bad in an accident, and Ashwell got together with all of the coaches in the league and the players parents to pool together money for the family.

He said that they were able to give the family close to $2,700 and having the league rally around that family the way they did was a show of how close knit the players, coaches and families that participate become.

Ashwell also touted the relationships with NC GameOn Sports that has brought many travel ball tournaments to the Day Complex and Cluster Springs Ball Park throughout the summer. That relationship has brought revenue opportunites to the county and given local teams the chances to play at home. Steve Bryant with Cluster Springs Ball Park and Ashwell, along with dozens of volunteers were able to make these travel ball tournaments a success and they are thankful for that.

“A lot of work goes into hosting these tournament weekends. It starts on Fridays with field prep and ends late Sunday evenings with cleanup,” Ashwell said. “Some weekends over 50 teams from Virginia and North Carolina have been playing between these two parks, boosting tourism and revenue for our programs, South Boston and Halifax County. We could not successfully host these tournaments if it were not for the volunteers that spend numerous hours at both facilities,” he added.

As the regular season winds down and the travel ball season has another month or so left, Ashwell sent a big thank you to everyone involved in making the season a success.

“I want to thank the ballplayers, parents, family members and friends that contributed to playing baseball with Halifax County Dixie Youth. It meant a lot to see your support and cheering on these players.

“Thank you to all the board members for making this season a success. Volunteers that are not on the board, thank you for all your time spent cutting grass and keeping the fields in good playable condition. We would not have a baseball program if it were not for you all. We look forward to seeing the kids back next year and continuing the game of baseball.”

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV