Delivering the keynote address before launching the long-awaited Dizzy Dean World Series, Polk captivated the audience. Britney Spears couldn't have done a better job of holding their attention.
Speaking at the magnificent Bryan Center in West Point to allow more people a chance to attend the Dizzy Dean Banquet, Polk gave the World Series a terrific boost.
The winningest coach in the Southeastern Conference, Polk had the large turnout, young and old alike, on the edge of their seats. The banquet was moved from The Civic Center in West Point to allow more fans to attend.
A native of Boston, Mass., Polk delivered an inspirational address spiced with humor and filled with rib-tickling accounts of everyday life on and off the diamond. He had many success stories to tell, many about his former players and acquaintances.
Twice honored as National Coach of the Year, Polk had the audience tied in stitches with his humor, ranging from some of his "run-ins" with umpires to how things changed so rapidly for former MSU All-American Rafael Palmeiro, a Major League veteran with the Texas Rangers.
In closing, Polk challenged the young players to "make a difference in somebody's life", not only in baseball, and in academics, but in life in general.
In Polk's caring way, the decorated coach elected, rather than depart immediately after he had finished his address, to stay and greet, individually, each of the 600+ players.
If the Dizzy Dean World Series needed a boost, it certainly got it and then some. Players, coaches and fans from East Paulding, Ga., the eventual 2002 Dizzy Dean World Series champion, to Dora, Ala., the runner-up, and from Hiwassee, Tenn., to Starkville, which had two host sites, they word got around about Polk's insightful and genuinely interesting motivational address.
Former Mississippi State All-SEC catcher Frank Portera, of West Point, may have said it best.
"Listening to Ron Polk made me wonder what it would have been like to have played for him," said Portera, one of MSU's all-time great catchers who inked a pro contract after college.
"Tonight's address by Ron Polk was heart-touching, a real tribute. I don't know that I've ever seen an audience as attentive and tuned in to the speaker," added Portera, who also paid tribute to William Earl Taylor, for whom Taylor Park in West Point is named. Portera also recognized Jaynette Taylor.
The World Series was hosted by Dizzy Dean of Mississippi at Starkville Academy, Starkville High School, West Point, Oak Hill Academy, Caledonia, Columbus, Heritage Academy and New Hope.
It goes without saying that the Golden Triangle was brimming with baseball, July 11-15, as the 32 teams converged on the area.
President of Dizzy Dean Baseball of Mississippi, Bob Schubert, a veteran leader of youth baseball for years, said it was a special treat to have MSU's veteran coach speak to the young players.
"I can't say enough about what Ron Polk has brought to baseball at all levels," he added.
Bill Weeks of Starkville, Master of Ceremonies, gave Polk his "stamp of approval to a great coach and a great person' in his World Series "Welcome" address.
A number of Dizzy Dean national and state officials were saluted, included Billy Joe Powell, National Director; Jody Bales, Past Commander; and Schubert, and Polk, who is surely destined for the Hall of Fame.
Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer, is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News. He will be writing regular feature articles for Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi High School sports on the internet.