Written by Denny Bailey
Ryan Moyers may never be a household name in the sports broadcast world like Vin Scully or Al Michaels (or my personal favorite, Don Sutton), but he will forever be woven into the baseball lore of Choccolocco Park. He birthed a new phrase for his description of the home run barrage that took place at the Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Championships held at Choccolocco Park, May 23-28.
As the public address announcer for the OVC’s conference tournament, Moyers was looking for a “call” for the new park. Anniston Star sportswriter Joe Medley succinctly described Moyers’ creative call: “…the OVC, the crosswind on Choccolocco Park’s signature field and Moyers adaptation of the Alchemist Project song “Boom Shakalaka” made for the perfect storm…” The result was “Boom Choccolocco,” which will forever remind visitors to the park’s signature baseball field that home runs are on the menu along with hot dogs and popcorn.
The 2017 OVC Baseball Tournament set a league record for home runs at a neutral site with 50 homers hit, breaking a 2009 mark of 26. The 50 home runs were the unofficial record for an NCAA tournament, according to OVC tournament officials. The OVC hit 735 home runs during the 2017 season, second nationally only to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 758, through the end of the OVC tournament. Top seeded Tennessee Tech University, who won the tournament, was second nationally in home runs hit. TTU won the tournament for the fourth time, its first since 2009.
Baseball, however, was not the only OVC game in town. The OVC Softball Tournament was held May 10-14 at Choccolocco Park. This marked the second consecutive year the tournament was held at the neutral site in Oxford and the only two times it has been held at a location other than the site of the No. 1 seed.
No. 1 seed Jacksonville State University won the tournament, defeating Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the championship game. This is the second year in a row that JSU has claimed the title and its sixth overall softball championship.
The OVC Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships were held at the same time as the softball tournament, May 11-13, and marked the sport’s first visit to Choccolocco Park. The 2017 championship was the first with an expanded 3-day format. There were repeat champions for both the women’s and men’s teams, with Eastern Illinois claiming the women’s title for the second consecutive year and eighth time since 2007. Southeast Missouri won the men’s championship for the third time in four years and its eighth overall championship.
Jacksonville State University served as the host school for the Track and Field Championship. JSU Track Coach Steve Ray said:
He also praised the park personnel and staff for the efficiency with which the tournament was run.
Choccolocco Park was a busy place during the month of May. The OVC brought three large-scale championships to the 370-acre Oxford complex in addition to the usual baseball, softball, track, and soccer competitions and other events and activities taking place at the park. The OVC certainly thinks the park can accommodate such a broad and varied range of sporting events and has inked a contract to return the softball championships to the park for the next two years. Greg Bagley, Oxford’s Athletic Director, announced: “We have the OVC Softball Championships returning through 2019, and we hope to be able to add other OVC sports and other conference games and championships in the future.” If indeed the OVC and other conferences and schools join the “booming” growth of the park’s usage, the term “Boom Choccolocco” may mean more than just home runs!