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Another Opening Day Missed

Another Opening Day Missed

By: Ben Smith - February 1, 2024

Outdoor Columnist Ben Smith’s a little bummed out, missing another Opening Day for the second time in less than six months – rifle season and now college baseball.

Every single year, the end of January brings about several different feelings. Usually, I’m a little depressed that deer season is ending. I wait, and prepare, all year for October to arrive and the wait is seemingly forever. Then, like a shooting star across the night sky, it’s gone. In its place all that is left is an empty feeling. No more trips to look forward to for a while. No more adrenaline of having a buck in my sights. It’s time to let the woods rest.

For the last few years, I’ve added to my state of depression with the end of duck season, as well. Not that I’m a huge duck hunter, but I’ve really grown to enjoy shooting waterfowl with friends. Actually, we are fortunate to even have the last couple of weeks of duck season. The ending date on that used to be January 17th until, much to the dismay of the U.S. Fish and Game, Senator Trent Lott threw his political weight around to extend Mississippi’s season to the end of January.

With deer and duck seasons coming to an end, and turkey season still a couple of months away, the end of January would be about as gloomy as possible for me if not for one thing. Baseball season. Yeah, I know it isn’t technically an outdoor hobby, but rather my job. But thank goodness the opening of baseball season coincides with the end of hunting season. Otherwise, I’d probably be the most miserable husband and father around. 

Around this time last year, I wrote an article about remembering my first Opening Day at William Carey. I’ve had nineteen Opening Day experiences since then. Fortunately, most of them have been really good. Some of them were disappointing, but all have been unique in their own way. The one thing that’s never changed were the sounds and smells. There’s a certain amount of energy in the stadium that is hard to rival. A new season, a new birth. However, for the first time in twenty years, this Opening Day will be much different than all of the rest.

For the first time since 2004, I will not be in the dugout for the William Carey Baseball opener. After dealing with a back injury for the last several months, I was left with few other options than to have surgery to repair it. To add more unfortunate news, the surgery would have to be on Monday of opening week. I’ve tried to tell myself that with surgery on Monday that I’d for sure be able to be there for the Thursday evening game. However, my doctor and primary caregiver (my wife) have informed me otherwise saying that I’ll have to watch the game from the quiet confines of our home. So, for the second time in less than six months, I’ll miss another Opening Day (reference to rifle season opener).

Since we have opened the topic of William Carey, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that William Carey Baseball could pick up its first win of the season before the opening game even arrives. Barring a serious comeback effort from Southern Miss Baseball, WCU is set to win the 2nd Annual PTC Big Buck Contest for the second straight year. At the time of this article being typed, WCU is currently up about 332” in the contest with three days left of time on the clock. With both teams gearing up for the season to begin, I’m seriously doubting that anymore hunting is going on. 

By the time this article comes out, the surgery will be finished, and I will hopefully be well on my way to recovery. In the meantime, thank you to everyone that’s already reached out to our family. I’m always blown away by the number of caring friends we’ve made during our time in Hattiesburg. I would like to ask a favor, though. Since I can’t be there for our season opener, I’m asking you to go in my place. Currently, William Carey is ranked 4th in the country in the NAIA Preseason Poll and will be looking to get back to the NAIA World Series this season. Go and help pack out Milton Wheeler Field and tell ‘em I sent ya. Mississippi, you are the greatest and I love you with all I’ve got! 

About the Author(s)
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Ben Smith

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Ben played baseball at William Carey University before joining the coaching staff at WCU, where he’s spent the last 16 years. He also serves as a History Instructor in the WCU School of Arts and Letters. During the Covid shutdown in 2020, he began the outdoor blog “Pinstripes to Camo”. The blog quickly grew into a weekly column and was awarded as the #1 Sports Column in the state by the Mississippi Press Association. During that time, “Pinstripes to Camo” also became a weekly podcast, featuring various outdoor guests from around the country, and has grown into one of the top outdoor podcasts in the Southeast.
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