CeCe and I were fortunate to be invited to the NCAA baseball super regional in Hattiesburg, MS. The best-of-three series featured two Mississippi teams – The Southern Miss Golden Eagles and our favorite team, the Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebels came out smoking on Saturday as they defeated Southern Miss 10–0. It was certainly an unexpected margin of victory for fans of both teams.
On Sunday, it was hot and the stadium was packed.
It appeared to be an attendance record as every seat was taken and the standing-room crowd extended beyond the right field foul pole. The Golden Eagle fans were quite loud and looking for revenge. It was a high-tension game with lots riding on the outcome for both teams. The Rebels finally squeaked out a 5–0 victory, and CeCe and I are exhausted.
Even in the top of the ninth inning, with two outs, the Southern Miss fans stayed locked in and cheered furiously for their team. I saw no one leave until the last out fell into the glove of Ole Miss first baseman, Tim Elko. I realized then that the Southern Miss fans were not only supporting their team to the last out but saying thank you for an amazing season – 47 victories, a top 20 ranking, and the first time to host a super regional in school history. As we prepared to leave, thanked our hosts, and began the trek back to our car, we were greeted by Southern Miss fans almost every step of the way.
I say greeted as they consistently congratulated us on the Ole Miss victory, complimented our team, and pledged their support for the Rebels at the College World Services in Omaha. (Oh, I enjoyed writing those last four words.) CeCe and I were blown away at the sportsmanship, the hospitality, the sincere congrats and support for our team’s future success.
Then we listened to Southern Miss head baseball coach Scott Berry and he literally said the same things in congratulating Ole Miss and pulling for them in the College World Series. Class act, coach, players and fans. Period, end of story.
The weekend provided so many leadership insights for our personal growth. We will have bad days, days where we don’t perform to our potential. But, like Southern Miss, we can look to the future, be positive and celebrate our progress and accomplishments. Sportsmanship, mutual respect, makes us better and creates a sense of belonging that is craved by so many today.
A hidden gem in this experience is that Southern Miss didn’t view these two losses or the future of their program with a scarcity mentality. Yes, the Southern Miss program and fans wanted to win, but after the losses, the fans we talked to didn’t feel like they must wish failure on Ole Miss or pull against them in the World Series.
With a view of abundance, Southern Miss uses positive energy to take on the next challenge.
Even in baseball, you have a season — but it’s one season — and you must prepare every day for the next one.
My hat is off to Southern Miss, Coach Scott Berry and his staff, the baseball team and maybe most of all to the fans who rose above a disappointing loss to make the world of sports and college baseball a little bit better. The world today seems to need a little bit more of this Southern Miss magic. Thanks for an incredible memory and a lesson in how real leadership impacts others.