Lowery, Babe Ruth League ready for Opening Day

May 10—It started out as a normal evening for Maris Lowery. He and broadcast partner Eric Thomas were at Woodrow Wilson High School, preparing to call the Flying Eagles girls basketball season opener against Princeton, when Beckley coaching legend Dave Barksdale approached him.

"He came over and said he wanted to ask me something, and he put his arm around me, and I was like, 'Uh oh, what am I in for?'" Lowery said with a laugh.

Of course, Barksdale had the best of intentions.

Doug Leeber, who had been the president of Beckley Babe Ruth League for five years, had to resign because of job responsibilities. Barksdale knew who he thought would be the perfect candidate to take over the position.

"(He asked) would I step in and do it," Lowery said. "I told him, 'Well, tell me a little bit more about it.' We went over a few details, and he and I had a lunch about a week after that at the Black Knight and I told him I would do it.

"I felt that if Coach Barksdale felt I was the guy to lead the Beckley Babe Ruth, and then I had the Mayor (Rob Rappold), who I go to St. Francis (de Sales Church) with, stepped in and said he was glad that I was the one that took it. So when I had the blessing of Coach and the Mayor, they felt I was the right guy for the job and I would do it."

That was the first week of December, and since then Lowery — with plenty of help — has gotten ready for what's coming up on Monday.

Opening Day for Lowery's first year as President of Beckley Babe Ruth League is Monday. Two games will be played at Harry Lewin Field on Eisenhower Drive.

"It's been really exciting, but I've had a lot of help," he said. "No one person can do this. You've got to have a lot of help because there's a lot involved once we get the season opener going."

The biggest thing, Lowery said, was getting players signed. That ended up not being a problem.

"We got 92 players, which I am told is the most they've had in the last five years," Lowery said. "Not long ago they had four teams, then it grew to seven, and now we have eight teams, which balances out our schedule."

Two days of tryouts were then held and players were drafted into the eight teams — four with 12 and four with 11. Then it was time to make sure all players are properly equipped.

"Most players have their own gloves, their cleats, their bat, catcher's stuff," Lowery said. "The main thing was just getting hats, sponsors are a big plus, of course the uniforms. Most of the uniforms are in tact, but there's always a jersey here or there that doesn't fit or has a hole in it, or pants here or there. We have one new team, the Beckley Reds, that had to be completely outfitted with everything — caps, pants, jerseys, et cetera."

Insurance and other behind-the-scenes matters also had to be attended to.

"Big shoutout to Coach Barksdale behind the scenes," Lowery said. "He's helped sell signs that are on the outfield wall. And our sponsors. Big shoutout to Larry Foster. He takes care of the field. I know him from his days at Spartan (Sporting Goods) and he helps me with equipment, balls, jerseys. And of course a big shoutout to Doug Leeber. He's been navigating me behind the scenes.

"People may see me out front, but there's lot more to it than me. I've got so much support behind the scenes, and I think that's what's important to be successful in anything."

The eight teams are divided into 13-16 age groups. Last year's 14-year-olds and 13-year-olds played in the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional, with the 14s winning and playing in the Babe Ruth World Series for the first time in Beckley history.

This is the first year the league will have a division for 16-year-olds.

Community sponsors, of course, are big for Babe Ruth and they will be on display, starting with Opening Day. Lowery said there will be a simple ceremony starting at 5 p.m. with remarks from various dignitaries and Billie Trump throwing out the first pitch. That will be followed by the first two games of the season — First Community will take on Jan Care at 5:45 p.m., followed by Serv Pro and WVRP Realty at 8 p.m.

The season will run seven weeks with two games per day played on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, except for the week of Memorial Day, when games will be played Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

All games have a two-hour time limit.

For a complete season schedule, visit

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