Sat, Jan 20, 2018 09:31 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
2003-06-20 sports
The Point After
Dawgs should remember the road to Applebee's Park
James Ellis
Playing in the Kentucky State Baseball Tournament at Applebee's Park in Lexington is bound to make an impression on the 140 or so high school players who were privileged to do so this week.

Being there to watch a portion of the happenings made an impression on those of us in the press box.

Here are some of mine.

First off, somebody in Lexington did something very right with Applebee's Park. The facility is evocative of baseball's early days without sacrificing fan comfort, modern amenities or parking facilities.

It is not overdone in décor or underdone on restroom facilities – a big plus for a facility that hopes to serve its guests best.

The Lexington Legends have a spacious, well-designed stadium to call home and provide an enjoyable experience for fans.

On the downside, the press box was just slightly larger than a North Vietnamese prison cell, and almost as well ventilated. But hey, they know how to take care of their paying customers.

Players made an impression, too. Especially the shortstops. Many of those assigned to cover the opening game between Apollo and Lawrence County noted how smooth, confident and efficient both Jake Wells and Chris Pope were as they fielded their positions.

Of course, the Bulldog partisans are partial to Pope, but Wells was just a freshman and looked like he had been playing there a while.

Impressive also was Ryne Mantooth, the Eagles' lanky junior ace who threw three speeds – off-speed, more off-speed and put-you-to-sleep off-speed.

But the right-hander moved the ball around well and kept pretty much everybody in the park off-balance with his mix of breaking pitches.

Lawrence County's Steve Blevins and Kevin Workman did not fare as well on the mound, but the Dawgs and their fans would do well to savor the flavor of a very successful season and use it to whet their appetite for next year.

With ten players from this team back, including the bulk of the offensive production and most position players and virtually all the pitching, save a very valuable Workman, Lawrence Countians might want to remember the route to Applebee's Park.

They have a good chance of repeating the trip.

Next, Randy Keeton is a pretty even-keeled guy. He never seemed to get too high or too low during this team's run.

They had moments of frustration early in the season, producing a fair amount of head-scratching by observers and fans, but Keeton never wavered and his team steadied and settled into a groove which carried them all the way to the state quarterfinals.

During the game, Keeton gestured at a couple of calls from home plate and first base umpires, but again he did not seem to show a sense of panic when things didn't go well early.

And when it mattered most, the Hall-of-Fame coach did what matters most: he maintained graciousness and well-wishing when his team, the team he poured his energy into, was defeated.

That often times takes more than winning does.

Let's hope he gets to compare the two when this event rolls around next season.

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