It seems like only yesterday, a new tournament began to honor a young teenager in the Bolivar County Community who had died at age 13 on June 18, 2000 on his family’s rice farm in Beulah.
In August of 2001, eight teams competed at Bear Pen Park in Cleveland in the first annual Brett McClendon Memorial Classic. At that time of the event people in the community wanted to do something to remember McClendon, who was a junior high student at Bayou Academy and an active participant of all the sports at the Cleveland Park Commission.
Ever since the first McClendon Tournament was played 12 years ago, the event has become much more than a baseball tournament. It’s become something that many people in Cleveland look forward to every year. On a yearly basis now, anywhere from 25 to 30 teams compete in the event regularly and even some teams come from the state of Louisiana to play in the event.
The event named after McClendon has done much for the community. Proceeds from the scholarship first went to an endowment fund at Delta State University for a baseball player. Over the last couple of years, proceeds from the tournament have gone to help make renovations at the baseball fields at Bear Pen Park.
The tournament is more about baseball as it always helps me put life into prospective. I never got a chance to know him, but when I see this tournament every year, it makes me think about how special Brett was to so many people and how much they loved him.
Every year the tournament starts, I see his mother Diane Chenault around the field and she is always pleasant with a smile on her face. It’s obvious to see that this event and the support that has followed have been big for her and her family. Brett’s younger brother Cory has been heavily involved in this tournament as he played in it during his high school days and has been a volunteer in it in recent years. It also gives Brett’s three youngest brothers, Bryce Chenault, 13, Colby Chenault, 11 and Braylan Chenault, 9, another chance to know who Brett was and how much he meant to people. Colby will be playing in the tournament for the Delta Reds, while Braylan will be playing for the Blackouts.
Men like Destry Harmon, Jim Salley and Marty Bray have worked hard to help put the event together. The volunteer work that is always put into it has been nothing short of amazing, as the list of people that has helped over the years is too numerous to mention.
This year’s event will begin Friday at Bear Pen Park and 30 teams will be split up into five different divisions — girls coach pitch, boys coach pitch, 10 and under baseball, 12 and under baseball and 14 and under baseball. The tournament will start at 6 p.m. It will also be father’s day weekend.
As we get out to the ballpark to enjoy a weekend of baseball, it’s important to keep in mind this event is a chance to enjoy special time with family and friends.
Andy Collier is the sports editor at The Bolivar Commercial. He can be reached at (662)-843-4241 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.