Baseball teams often are victorious in their favorite stadiums, but it is unique for the stadium itself to be the victor. Uncommon things happen when a city builds a first-rate sports complex such as Choccolocco Park—like being named the National High School Baseball Field of the Year.
Choccolocco Park’s Signature Baseball Field, home of the Oxford Yellow Jackets’ baseball team, competed for this esteemed recognition, which was awarded last December by the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (NHSBCA). The other competing fields were from Marysville, Ohio; Forest Lake, Minnesota; College Station, Texas; Anthem, Arizona; Villa Park, California; Boston; and Philadelphia. Rumour has it that the vote came down to two fields: Choccolocco Park, and a field in Boston that is a replica of Fenway Park (famed home of the Boston Red Sox).
The award is a culmination of a total community effort to make Choccolocco Park a success, and Oxford’s leadership shares the park’s award with all involved. Oxford Mayor Alton Craft stated, “Not only am I extremely proud of the things that are going on at the new facility, but also of all the Parks and Recreation Department staff that has contributed to the park’s success.”
In response to the award, Oxford PARD Director Don Hudson said: “We are very proud to be recognized against such prestigious competition in our first year of operation.”
Head Baseball Coach Wes Brooks represented Oxford High and Choccolocco Park at the National Awards Banquet in Columbus, Ohio on December 2nd. He was quick to give credit to Chad Robinson and the Honors Golf staff who maintain all the fields at the complex. Brooks said, “When Oxford was called out as the winner, I felt a little bad going up to receive the award since I am not the one doing the day-to-day operation and maintenance. It is such a team effort.”
Connor Syer, a senior on this year’s Yellow Jacket baseball team, joined his teammates in being awed by the award, and said: “We are extremely blessed to be able to play our home games on the field recognized as the best field in the nation!” Oxford’s High School Athletic Director, Larry Davidson, reaffirmed that sentiment when he said, “The vision shown by city officials has paved the way for this opportunity, one sure to provide exceptional benefits for student-athletes, coaches, and the entire Oxford community. I thank you for daring to dream.”
Choccolocco Park is home to the Oxford High School Yellow Jacket Baseball, Softball, Track, and Soccer Teams. During a city-wide celebration and park grand opening in October, Davidson spoke of the “championship atmosphere” that Choccolocco Park brings. In its first season using the facilities, the OHS baseball and softball teams won the Class 6A, Area 10 Championships.
New champions will be crowned, and more victories will be celebrated at Choccolocco Park this year. Besides hosting the Yellow Jackets, the Signature Baseball Field will be the home field for Jacksonville State University’s baseball team while their Rudy Abbot Field undergoes major renovations. JSU Track Coach Steve Ray will utilize the track venue to host his home Ohio Valley Conference events. After its success hosting the OVC Softball Tournament last year, Choccolocco Park will host the 2017 OVC Baseball, Softball, and Track and Field Championships.
The Signature Baseball Field is known as “The Big House,” after the Creek Indian name for the area “Cuko Rakko,” which means “Ceremonial Grounds” or simply “Big House.” English speakers translated it into “Choccolocco,” where the more than 300 acre one-of-a-kind park finds its name today. Atop the historic land sits cutting-edge baseball, softball, track and field, and soccer amenities, along with educational, walking and biking trails, all-encompassing playgrounds, water and natural resources, and much more—all at the fingertips of Oxford residents and visitors.