By Ben Smith:
The best thing about coaching baseball and hosting an outdoor podcast is, by far, the people that I get to be around. Over the course of 15 years in the dugout, I’ve been blessed to be around some fantastic young men that have gone on to do great things in the world. The same can be said about the podcast. We’ve had some really unique guests that do great things in the outdoor world. That said, I usually use this column to bore you with something in the outdoors, or I get on a soapbox about something that bothers me. This week, I’ve decided to do something good with the column, for once. I’d like to take this week to highlight a few young people that have recently made a big impression on me.
We decided to make February “Ladies Month” on the Pinstripes to Camo Podcast, and I’m so glad that we did. We had multiple female guests from the outdoor world that were all fantastic. We had “Sippi Girls” which included Ashley Jones from “Swamp People”. We had Kerri Marsh from “Real South Hunting”. Our last female guest of the month was no doubt our most unique. Ellie Chain joined us last weekend for our first face-to-face podcast since November (we’ve been recording remotely).
Ellie is a senior at Oak Grove High School. She’s a member of the Beta Club, Math Club, Science Club, National Honor Society, and Oak Grove’s Dance Team. She’s an avid outdoorsman that’s killed elk, turkeys, oryx, and giant whitetails. Along with her hunting partner, her dad, she’s traveled all over the country in pursuit of big game. Her biggest whitetail buck would be the centerpiece on the walls of most grown men that I know, myself included. Aside from her impressive resumé and her success in the outdoors, she’s Miss Teen Hattiesburg! If that doesn’t bust stereotypes wide open, then I don’t know what will.
One of the most impressive things about Ellie is her servant heart. Ellie has been very outspoken for the Mississippi Hunter’s Harvest program, which helps feed families in need all across the state. The Hunter’s Harvest program partners with processors around the state, including Strick’s Processing in Hattiesburg, and the Mississippi Food Network to distribute fresh venison where needed. Local churches and non-profit organizations throughout the state also aid in distribution. It’s an incredibly simple process, as hunters agree to donate a portion, or all, of their processed meat to the program. For more information on this program, you can visit the Mississippi Wildlife Federation website, or contact Robin Carlin (who was also on our show last summer).
Ellie will be competing for the title of Miss Teen Mississippi in April, and she made sure to tell us that she will be promoting the Hunter’s Harvest program on the big stage. To me, that takes some guts and some conviction to promote something that doesn’t fit the typical beauty pageant narrative. Here’s to hoping that Ellie wins the pageant and the Hunter’s Harvest program gets the attention that it deserves.
Next on my “promote our local young talent” column, I’m going to shift from the outdoors back to baseball. This week, I had the privilege of sitting in a second grade classroom and watching two of our players read a Dr. Seuss book to the students. Jake Lycette and RJ Stinson are both juniors on our team, and two of the best young men that you could ask for. My heart swelled with pride watching them read to the kids because I believe that they were enjoying it as much as the kids were. Servant leadership is rare in this world, and both of these guys have that quality.
Aside from being good people, they are also both pretty dang good baseball players. Both of them are hitting over .300 on the season, and neither of them have made an error. They are two of our team leaders and well respected by their teammates. More impressive than their stats on the field is their stats in the classroom. Both players have a GPA over 3.80 and are members of the All-SSAC Academic Team. If you’ve ever played collegiately, you know how difficult this is. These guys perform at a high level on, and off, the field every single day. They both come from homes where their dads are football coaches, so I have no doubt that that is where they learned discipline from.
I have felt so honored to have been in the presence of these three young people this week. In a world where it sometimes feels like there is little hope for the future, these three are a reminder that there is still plenty of good out there. They are a shining light in our community and should be celebrated as so. They are the type of role models that kids today need. Heck, they are the type of role models that adults today need! I have no doubt that whatever they decide to do with their lives, they will make the world a better place for all.