Halifax County native and current Major League Baseball pitcher Jeremy Jeffress began his baseball career at the age of 8 in the South Boston Dixie Youth League.

The 10-year MLB veteran, now with the Chicago Cubs, Jeffress still remembers his days of Dixie Youth Baseball and the memories he made playing.

“I started when I was 8, and my first team was the Lions,” Jeffress said in a phone interview with The Gazette on Monday evening. “I have a picture still up in my mom and dad’s home of my first baseball picture with the Lions.”

Dixie Youth baseball is the first organized baseball any child will play growing up, and friendships and memories made during those years last a lifetime.

“It was a great experience growing up playing against friends that I still know today. Some of the guys I still stay in contact with,” Jeffress said. “I still know my coaches to this day and they still text me,” Jeffress added.

The importance of Dixie Youth and youth sports in general is important to Jeffress. He sponsors a team each year for the Dixie Youth season and gives back any way he can to his hometown.

“I just feel like making sure that the kids and the people in the community have things to go to and that they have something to look forward to once they are in the situations,” Jeffress said. “Me giving back that’s a good thing for me to do because that is what I really cared about when I was home,” he added.

Seeing people succeed in what they are doing is the biggest thing for Jeffress. The youth start out in Dixie Youth around 4 or 5 years old and many develop into tremendous players and a few like Jeffress make it to the top, but it all starts with youth sports.

When asked what Jeffress would say to the youth playing sports today, specifically baseball, he wanted to express going out there and being free of everything around and to just play.

“This is something that you can set your mind and be free at, no one judges you. There is no one watching you, only those that care about you,” Jeffress said about youth baseball.

Jeffress recalls the sense of family that being a part of Dixie Youth brought. The camaraderie and friendly rivalries that formed were things he still carries with him today.

“You have to look at it as a family and be yourself and when you be yourself and you play like you want to play that is when you start realizing how good you are and where you can go in life in this particular sport or with any sport,” Jeffress said. “Continue to play and grow with each other and grow with yourself,” he added.

As the summer season of youth sports finally kicks off after a lengthy delay due to COVID-19, the players and coaches of the leagues are happy to just be able to get back together and play again. This season it is not about wins or losses or where you finish in the tournament. This year it is about getting back to the roots of the game, to play with passion and learn at the same time.

Jeffress knows as well the role that these times play in a young persons life.

“Dixie Youth was a big part of my life growing up that’s for sure. It is a great time and everyone creates a family type of feel and vibe and I think everyone should look at it like that.”

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