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Released July 13, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- The Southern Miss Elite All-Stars, a group of 14-year-old select area baseball players heading to the AAU national championships in Orlando this month, were named in honor of The University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

But on Tuesday, it was officials from the university who did the honoring.

Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames and the Golden Eagles' head baseball coach, Corky Palmer, met with members of the team at Pete Taylor Park and presented them with a grab bag of Southern Miss goodies to take on their trip. Sporting the university's logo and name, the items - shirts, hats, decals, bumper stickers, lapel pins, footballs, baseballs, etc. - will be distributed to teams from 49 other states during a jamboree at the tournament, which runs from July 23-30.

"This is a tremendous example of what athletics can do for Southern Miss. The name 'Southern Miss' carries across the nation and beyond, and it allows youngsters to come here who might not otherwise be here, and to see our world-class athletic programs," Thames said after posing with Palmer and the team around a Southern Miss flag he presented at the meeting. The team's coach, Jason Hawkins, said the flag will adorn the dugout, alongside Mississippi's official state flag, during each of its games.

While it was Thames' first meeting with the team, Palmer knows most of the members quite well. In fact, his nephew, Jeff Palmer, plays for the Southern Miss Elite.

"A lot of these guys come out to our games," Palmer said. "A lot of these kids are future Golden Eagle fans, and some of them might even be future Golden Eagles."

Made up of some of the best baseball players in south Mississippi, the team has ample World Series and big-time tournament experience. Several players were on the Oak Grove 12-year-old team two years ago that went to the World Series, and others were part of the Hattiesburg 10-year-old team that won the World Series in Pace, Fla.

To win this year, Bo Hust of Petal said that his team has to play "complete baseball."

"The competition is so good, you can't make mistakes or play separately. You have to play together," Hust said. Adrian Lee of Oak Grove said what separates teams at this level is "heart."

The Southern Miss Elite All-Stars have compiled a 52-12 record, playing as many as five games per weekend. They have traveled as far as Baton Rouge, La., to play in tournaments.

Hawkins said that kind of schedule takes dedication from parents as well as players. He also praised Coach Palmer for his support of the team.

"He's been great to the kids. He's allowed us to use the bullpen if it's raining and flooding outside, and he's worked with the kids on some things. He knows what he's talking about, so if he tells them to do something, they know they can take that to the bank," Hawkins said.

The team's roster includes Chase Ezelle of Petal; Adrian Lee of Oak Grove; Taylor Humphries of Columbia; Tyler Kittrell of Oak Grove; Ethan Applewhite of Sumrall; Jeff Palmer of Oak Grove; Colby Dozier of Hattiesburg; Jared Smith of Brooklyn; Jake Hawkins of Oak Grove; Bo Hust of Petal; B.J. Smith of Mendenhall; Casey Paulk of Summitt and Stanton Price of Vicksburg.


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July 23, 2004 10:41 AM