Show-Me State Games serve as reunion for former ballplayers

Saturday, July 18, 2009 | 6:57 p.m. CDT; updated 9:14 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Brennen Wood of the West Plains Zs connects with a pitch from Eliel Malpica of the North County Indians during the pool round of Show-Me State baseball on July 18 at Hickman Field in Columbia. Despite Wood's efforts, the Indians won 10-1.

COLUMBIA — Something was missing from the hands of Mojo Shirts coach Michael O'Haver on Saturday at Atkins Field Baseball Complex.

The Mojo Shirts baseball team, based in Kirksville, has participated in the Show-Me State Games for the past six years.

O'Haver was accustomed to having a bat clamped in his hands, and a catcher's mitt when behind home plate for the Show-Me State Games.  

But he hurt his arm the previous day. The team crowded to the left side of the dugout as O'Haver demonstrated to the team how he was hurt. 

He swung the bat softly making his face cringe in pain.

So instead of playing, O'Haver took the coaching role, and he crouched behind third base with the lineup card in his hand as his team took the field.   

The Show-Me State Games serves as a reunion for current and former college ballplayers on the team. At the games, players get together, play and share memories of when they played on the same teams in high school or college.

O'Haver, 31, is the centerpiece of the reunions, because all the players are people he has coached at either Adair County High School or Truman State University, where he currently coaches.

"Every day we are together we remember the past," O'Haver said. "When we first started, these guys were 16 to 18 years old. Now they are all in college or have graduated."

O'Haver has many fond memories of the team. He won a district and conference championship in 2004 in Class 1 play with Adair County High School. He also recalled when Mojo Shirts player Justin Simpson hit a long home run at the Hickman High School baseball field.

"He hit that ball a country mile, it was about 400 feet," O'Haver said. "It bounced off the roof of the building behind the fence and landed in the pool."

J.C. Moots, 23, has played for O'Haver for six years. Before joining O'Haver, he played against him in high school games.

"I hated playing against him, his teams were tough to play against," Moots said. "I have had three to four high school coaches, but they didn't have the baseball knowledge that he did. He not only teaches us to be a good ballplayer but a good person."

Nathan Dodson, 24, has played with O'Haver for eight years, longer than any other player.  

Dodson started playing for O'Haver on the Adair County High School team his junior year. He had a timid personality when he first started with O'Haver, but through O'Haver's influence he became a vocal leader on the team, and is going to be coaching high school sports teams in Milan, Mo. 

"I use a lot of his philosophies when I coach," Dodson said. "He brought out the leadership characteristics in me."

Dodson brings up many memories as well, one in particular he was not so fond of.

In 2004, a ball quickly dribbled towards second base and was just out of Dodson's reach. He dove and extended his arm. The ball bounced off second base evading his reach. His right shoulder skid across the dirt sent a sharp pain racing through his arm which caused a bone spur to tear into his rotator cuff.

"I didn't know if I was going to ever play again," Dodson said.  "I could not even raise my arm above my shoulder.

It took Dodson eight months to recover. After rehabbing his shoulder, he came back andwas able to play in the Show-Me State Games again.

After playing three years together in the games, O'Haver decided to make a semi-pro baseball team in Kirksville. Now the team uses the league to prepare for the Show-Me State Games.

Despite players nearing the end of their college career and some who have already graduated, Dodson and O'Haver think the team will stay together a few more years and continue having reunions.

"As long as we can still lace up our cleats we will keep going," Dodson said.

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