They get to have their championship and a prom.
In fact, one couldn’t find a player or girlfriend anywhere around Riverwalk Stadium on Saturday night fretting that they missed the actual prom while in Montgomery for the state-final series.
“I didn’t care,” said Katey Skinner, donning a gold, No. 22 jersey in support of senior standout and Alabama signee Jackson Stephens. “I’d rather be here.”
Thanks to Alexander the Great Events in Oxford, Skinner and others who spent the weekend in Montgomery with Oxford’s baseball contingent can have their own prom.
It won’t be THE prom. That happened Friday night, while the baseball team was winning Game 1 at Paterson Field.
It will be A prom, set for Tuesday night and put on by Mike Alexander, whose son, Taylor, is an Oxford senior and used to play baseball until developing arm problems.
“It’ll be fun,” Skinner said minutes after Saturday’s game, while waiting near the Yellow Jackets’ dugout, “especially since they won.”
And it’s not just for baseball players and their dates.
“There was one Facebook post from a girl who said, ‘I hate baseball’,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “I think her date came to the game to watch, and her date wasn’t a player.
“But I think those two sets of dates are going to be invited to come Tuesday.”
It’s all part of the all’s well that ended so well for Oxford’s baseball team and its supporters, and it wasn’t always certain that things would work out so well.
The baseball title fell in doubt when Fairhope rallied to win Game 2 on Saturday and led Game 3 until the sixth inning.
The prom thing was in doubt until the Yellow Jackets got news of the second prom this past Tuesday.
“It was a little bit of a distraction, more early in the week than it was later in the week,” said senior pitcher and designated hitter Tucker Simpson, MVP of the state finals. “As a team we just tried to tune it out and tried to focus on ourselves and not what’s back in Oxford.”
Brooks was most worried about when the Yellow Jackets’ postseason run teetered on the edge in the semifinals against Spain Park. They lost Game 1 and trailed Game 2 before rallying on May 12, days before they learned of the second prom.
“If those guys really wanted to go to the prom, they could have given up in the sixth inning,” Brooks said. “I was so proud of them for winning that game, but, if it was in the back of their minds that, ‘Man, I’m going to do my girlfriend wrong?’”
OK, so coaches are worriers.
Who wasn’t on board, considering what was at stake for the Yellow Jackets?
They weren’t just going after their first-ever state championship in baseball but the school’s first state title in any sport on the Class 6A level.
Many of the players — including 13 seniors — were part of the original travel-ball team in Oxford as 9-year-olds. They worked their whole careers hoping for this day.
Simpson, Stephens and Mathew Goodson were among those who came to Montgomery as freshmen and lost in the 2009 state finals to Auburn, and they felt the sting of missing the playoffs a year ago.
They came to Montgomery this time with a team that featured 10 college signees, three bound for SEC schools. If ever an Oxford team was going to do it, it was this one.
Those close to those players understood, or so it seemed.
“I think the girlfriends were on board the whole time because of the talent that we had, knowing that (missing the prom) was a possibility,” Brooks said.
It all worked out for those of Oxford stripe who chose caps and jerseys over tuxedos this weekend. They got to enjoy a landmark state championship together on what Simpson called “definitely the best day of my life so far.”
Many, including coaches and their wives, also get to have a prom in what’s certain to be another occasion to talk baseball.
Not that anyone seemed too concerned about a prom as fireworks shot off over Riverwalk Stadium on Saturday night.
“This,” Goodson said, “is the best prom that I think anybody could ever have.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.