Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is supporting a bill that could end mountaintop removal. Several coal companies in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia are fighting back by boycotting travel to the state. Although the trip was planned before the boycott, the team thought long and hard as to how to participate while standing strong for what they believe. The team consists of 10 players. All these players have parents who work in the coal industry. Most have grandparents who were involved in coal mining also. The team had been playing softball tournaments throughout the state of West Virginia for the entire summer. They had been gearing up for a tournament in Pigeon Forge in August.
"We took the girls in the dugout before a practice and explained to them that because of Senator Alexander's views, people in West Virginia were not traveling to Tennessee. The girls got their heads together and decided that they wanted to go, but they wanted to represent coal. That started a chain of events that eventually led us to Tennessee for the Fast Pitch for Chicks Tournament in August," said Wendi Daniels, scorekeeper for the Man 10 and under Travel Softball Team. "The girls were able to go as representatives for the Citizens For Coal group, an organization based in southern West Virginia that supports coal awareness."
“When the children showed up, they actually saw the faces of coal, to see what the damage would be,” said Lisa Harvey of Man whose husband is a surface miner and her daughter plays short stop on the 10-and-under girls’ softball team sponsored by Citizens for Coal. “I also have a 2-year-old. They saw him walk around with his Citizens for Coal shirt on and it just touched them.”
In total, around 50 people showed support by wearing their Citizens for Coal shirts to the tournament. According to Kim Keffer, whose daughter Sydney is the catcher for the team, "Our girls got to support coal while playing the game they love."
“Coal is important to us all and we made people in Tennessee realize that," said Haylee Daniels, pitcher for the team
Many people raised questions as to what Citizens for Coal represented and the young team quickly became ambassadors for mountain top mining.
"We had fun at the tournament," Sydney Keffer said. "We made people think."
And think they did. Over 100 people approached members of the team and their supporters throughout the weekend and where educated on the importance of coal to our country.
"We were the voices of West Virginia coal. I liked that," said second baseman Grace Cline.
Although the trip went as planned, the boycott did affect the itinerary for the team. The girls spent the bulk of their time at the softball field, answering questions and playing ball.
“It was ok with me because I was there to play softball," Hunter Harvey said. “Not anything else. I spent my free time in the hotel pool when I wasn't at the softball field.”
Team members Shautae Miller, Taylor Stiltner, Carly Puett, Baylee Gibson, Summer Combs and Emilee Walker all agreed that the team accomplished their goal of showing that coal is a vital and useable resource.
"We had fun and we got to play a lot of softball and people were interested in what we had to say about coal,” they all agreed.
The Man Billies- Citizens for Coal team was joined by a total of 39 teams from Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia at the softball tournament. The girls finished fourth in the tournament and they feel like they delivered a message to the people of Tennessee about the importance of mountaintop removal.
(This report was submitted by Wendi Daniels)