Monday, June 29, 2015
BASEBALL IN BILOXI
Up until about 8 years ago the only thing I knew about Biloxi Mississippi was the great lined uttered by Matthew Broderick in “Biloxi Blues”. After arriving on a troop train for basic training Broderick, exceptional in his role as Private Eugene Jerome, contemplates the brutal, southern heat and frankly states, “It’s like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot.”
In the years since my initial visit to the Gulf Coast I’ve developed a soft spot for the little city. I’ve seen it rebuild itself after being decimated by Hurricane Katrina. Make no mistake New Orleans got the media coverage, but Biloxi took the brunt of that terrible storm in 2005. Lives, homes, businesses and historical landmarks were washed away over the course of 24 hours. Think about that. Imagine spending the night in a storm shelter and coming back to your home to find it completely gone. Not just damaged, but gone, nothing but the foundation remaining. As the weeks and months passed in the aftermath the people of Biloxi slowly put the pieces back together. But lost were family pictures and keepsakes that couldn’t be replaced. Things like a baby’s first blanket or Christmas ornament gone forever. Although the homes and storefronts are rebuilt, the city of Biloxi wears a scar the way a fighter would. That scar serves as reminder of a hurt that will never fully heal.
The great thing about baseball is that it always seems to help us when we need it. That’s why we love it so much. For those of us here in New York the tragedy of September 11th 2001 will forever haunt us. But it was New York Baseball that helped us feel like ourselves again…if only for a few magical nights that emotional autumn.
The same thing has happened in Biloxi Mississippi. Now, if you listen to the suits and politicians in the news, they will tout themselves as the force that brought a minor league baseball club to the city by the Gulf. However, I happen to know that it was a born and bred Biloxi boy who was truly the engine that helped give his hometown the gift of the American Pastime.
I first met Barry Lyons in 2011. He was at an event in New York for B.A.T. (Baseball Assistance Team).
For those of you not familiar with Mr. Lyons (or Mr. Barry as he’d be known in the South) he was a catcher for the New York Mets, and backed up Hall of Famer Gary Carter in the early to mid 1980s. Mr. Lyons lost everything in the hurricane and was in desperate need of help. It was our own David Cone, a former teammate and close friend, who encouraged Lyons to get in touch with MLB’s Baseball Assistance Team.
The organization helps former players when they are most in need and they were able to get Barry back on his feet.
During his playing days it has been said by former Mets that Lyons was a great teammate. After the storm Barry Lyons proved to be that not only on the field but off as well. His teammates, the people of Biloxi, needed help. Bringing a baseball club to city would bring in jobs, help tourism and show that Biloxi Mississippi had made a comeback.
Today, with the popular Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino over the left center field wall, and just a block from the majestic Gulf of Mexico, the Biloxi Shuckers now have a home. The play to sold out crowds of locals and visitors to the area. The people come for the history, the scenery, the Southern hospitality, the seafood…and Baseball.
Barry Lyons is an example of someone who never forgot where he came from. He is a kid from the Mississippi Gulf Coast who loves the game and the place he calls home. That makes him a heck of a player in the game of life if you are keeping score. Congratulations, Barry. And Let’s Geaux Shuckers!
** Thanks to a local boy who made good they are “Talkin’ Baseball” in Biloxi Mississippi. **
Senior "Features" Writer
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