Troy vs. Enterprise: Familiar foesPublished 8:56am Thursday, July 14, 2011
The Battle for Tobacco Road, Palmer vs. Nicklaus, the Iron Bowl … Troy vs. Enterprise?
On a national scale it probably doesn’t fit. Locally, however, it’s growing to be the biggest match-up of them all.
This summer alone, the two recreation programs have met 23 times in tournament play with Enterprise holding a 14-9 advantage. But this Saturday in Enterprise, the rivalry will be renewed twice as the Junior Dixie Boys and Dixie Boys teams square off in their respective state tournaments.
“I think it’s a healthy rivalry,” Troy Parks and Recreation Director Dan Smith said. “As long as it’s kept in perspective, it can be a good thing.”
Rivalries are a part of what make sports so intriguing. It’s always more enjoyable to have an interest in the opposing team. If you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, you’ve watched the New York Yankees in the standings. If you’re rooting for Phil Mickelson, you care what Tiger Woods just made on No. 17. And if you bleed Crimson and White, well, you know everything about the Orange and Blue.
Maybe Troy and Enterprise aren’t on the level of the Yankees and Red Sox but it is sure nice to have two small town programs that can compete with each other. After all, competition breeds improvement.
“They like to beat us and we like to beat them,” Smith said. “I have seen some fierce competitiveness and some of the best sportsmanship.”
How many times have you seen a team coast through a regular season or first round of playoffs then be ousted almost immediately by a quality opponent? Take the 2001 Seattle Mariners. They finished 116-46 in the regular season setting an American League single-season record for wins before being slammed by the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Or more recently, the Hawaii football team. The Warriors have compiled a 29-11 record during the regular season but have been out-scored 152-66 in three bowl appearances.
Not that Troy or Enterprise are the Mariners or Hawaii but the ability to push each other makes them both better.
So, where did this all start? While there is not a true date to pinpoint (Troy and Enterprise have, obviously, played each other for years in some capacity), regular meetings between the recreation teams began to pick up when the Dixie organization re-aligned Alabama’s districts.
“Around 2007, we moved from being in a district with Dothan to one with Enterprise; obviously, we began to play them more often,” said Smith.
The familiarity with one another will grow even more this weekend. Both Gary Fox’s Dixie Boys and Sam Kitchens’ Junior Dixie Boys kick off their 2011 state tournaments against Enterprise.
“It’s always good to play Enterprise,” Kitchens said. “They always have good teams and you know where you stand after you play them.”
Because the cities are located 35 miles apart, fans have an easier time hitting the road to root for their team. Kitchens feels that both teams benefit from that.
“Both have great fans and they both travel well; any time you have to travel to play it’s good to see your fans come with you.”
Fox sees the rivalry as a chance for both teams to improve.
“When you play Enterprise you know you’re playing a quality team; you’ve got to play well to beat them,” he says.
Both Troy teams playing in Enterprise this weekend will have a tough road to a state title with the quality of competition they will be playing, but memories are made in moments like those sure to come this weekend. These match-ups make the game more enjoyable and more memorable.
When I was in these kids’ shoes our rival was Dothan. They had good hitters from top to bottom with the likes of Clint Robinson (Troy and Kansas City Royals), Ben and Dan Tankersley (Central Alabama CC) among others. We weren’t that shabby either countering with names like Clint Pugh (Troy) and Wesley Wright (Houston Astros).
Steering off memory lane, the point is that this is for the kids. They’ll remember things like this forever whether they play another game of baseball again or not. Let’s let them and help them enjoy it. Win or lose there are sure to be some great and indelible games but like Dan Smith said, “As long as it’s kept in perspective.”
Wes Johnson covers sports for The Messenger. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.