CLARKTON — The Marvin and Marsha Burney era in Clarkton Dixie Youth Baseball has come to a close. After 27 years in the organization, the couple has decided to step down.
“We always said there would come a time when we’ll have to walk away,” Marvin said, “and we’ve talked about it for years.”
“It’s been a very tough decision,” said Marsha.
The tough part of the decision, echoed by both Marvin and Marsha, is because of the children they’ve become so attached to. Although each has performed coaching and other duties with the organization because they enjoy it, it’s been the children that has kept them coming back year after year.
Twenty-eight years ago, the Clarkton Dixie Youth Baseball complex consisted of one field — no lights, no parking lot, no bathrooms, no concession stand and little real plan to expand. But Marvin Burney began to change all that when he started the following season.
“I’m real proud of what Marvin has accomplished there,” his wife said. “Now there are three lighted fields, a parking lot, a really nice concession stand and bathrooms.”
Marvin wasn’t about to take full credit, however.
“Well, the town and local businesses helped a lot, too,” he said.
Those efforts, naturally, came back in a positive way many times over for the town and those businesses. That’s because the complex has played host to numerous Dixie Youth Baseball tournaments — including 15 district tournaments, two state tournaments and a regional Dixie Youth Baseball World Series.
“That’s helped bring a lot of people to little Clarkton and Bladen County,” Marsha said. “And the local businesses really look forward to that.”
Something else the Burneys are proud of is the annual scholarship Clarkton DYB gives out. Each year there is an all-star tournament held and the proceeds benefit the national Dixie Youth Baseball Scholarship Fund. The national organization then sends as many as 70 scholarships, at $2,000 each, back to local organizations to give out. Locally, it’s handed out through the Buddy Burney Scholarship Fund.
“Over the years, we’ve probably given out about $20,000 in scholarships,” Marsha said. “We’re pretty proud of that.”
Now that the Burneys have reached the end of the ninth inning for their Dixie Youth Baseball careers, they know there will be things they will miss — and some things they won’t.
“Worrying about raising money is one of the things we won’t miss,” Marvin said. “But we will really miss the kids. Hopefully, we will be able to set up a chair behind the backstop and just watch the balls fly without having to worry about anything else. Just relax and enjoy.”
Marsha said that she and her husband feel good about how the organization has grown and that it will be taken care of well.
“We feel good about the group that will move it forward,” she said. “It’s time for the younger group to take over. I think we’re leaving the program in a batter spot than when we got there.”
If there is one area that both Marvin and Marsha wanted to emphasize, it was this:
“We hope the towns will support their Dixie Youth Baseball financially and the people will go out and support it by attending games and volunteering where they can. It’s all for the kids.”