By Spc. Jeremy Lewis, 101st Airborne DivisionJune 1, 2019
Clarksville, Tenn. - Nothing says summer like the smell of hot dogs at the ballpark, and for 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell Soldiers, and employees of the City of Clarksville and Montgomery County, there is no better summer kick-off than the annual Tobacco Stick Softball Game.
Screaming Eagle Soldiers faced off against city and county employees in the 10th Annual Tobacco Stick Game June 1, 2019 at Heritage Park, Clarksville, Tennessee.
Named for the area's rich tobacco history dating back to the 1800s, the game is an annual battle between the Soldiers and employees from the City of Clarksville and Montgomery County Government.
"We harass each other, and have a good ole time hootin' and hollerin'," said Phil Harpel, Military and Government Relations, Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's just another way to get to know folks out at Fort Campbell."
Since the first game in 2009, Fort Campbell has strong-armed the competition leading the series 8-1. However, thanks to a dominating performance by the Clarksville-Montgomery County team, it was clear Saturday the tides had turned.
Jumping out to a 5-0 lead after the first inning, the Clarksville-Montgomery County team, coached by City of Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, and Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, looked determined to bring home the coveted Tobacco Stick.
The Fort Campbell team, led by Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Barker, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) senior enlisted leader and head coach for the game, did not go down without a fight.
After a few stops on defense and some great hitting, the Soldiers tied things up heading into the fifth inning.
"I think we had a good rally, but it was too little, too late," Barker said.
Though the Soldiers put forth a valiant effort it was the Clarksville-Montgomery County team that pulled away for the win defeating Fort Campbell 17-8.
"I had forgotten what it felt like [to have the Tobacco Stick]," Pitts said. "We're glad to finally have it back home."
Naturally with competition there is a winner and a loser, but all participants said the best part was getting to strengthen bonds between the two sides.
"The game keeps us connected by allowing both communities to get out at the beginning of summer and kick things off with a little friendly competition," Barker said.
That sentiment is shared on the city-county government side as well.
"This is an important part of what we do because we have to build relationships," Pitts said.
With the last inning closed out, the two sides came together at the pitcher's mound to congratulate the winners and poke some fun for next year's game.
As laughter roared from the crowd the only thing separating the teams at this point was the color of their jerseys.
"We're all one community," Pitts said. "Two sides, but one community"