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Sports and 'Bama

By By Matthew Nascone
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has announced plans to celebrate the year 2008 as the "Year of Alabama Sports."
This is a good topic for one year of celebration because there have been a lot of athletes through the years who have began their careers in this great state.
This spotlighting celebration throughout the year should be a good way to show the rest of the nation what Alabama has to offer when it comes to sports. I am not too into the whole NASCAR scene, but one of the biggest races on the circuit is here in the grand ole' state of Alabama.
The Talladega Superspeedway is home to the annual race, as well as the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. I have never been there, but I have only heard great things about the place.
Everybody tells me that you really can't diss the sport of racing until you have been to a race live and seen it at the Superspeedway. I may visit that place one day, but as of right now my favorite historic sports venue in Alabama would have to be Rickwood Field.
This ball park is the oldest baseball park in the United States and it has been spotlighted in many major sports publications and I believe it was even on ESPN once or twice.
This piece of American history is nestled in Birmingham and I was actually lucky enough to play on the field when I played for the Jefferson State Community College Pioneers.
We were lucky enough to play an exhibition game against an adult men's softball team and it was a blast to be in the oldest ball park in the nation.
I had always thought Wrigley Field in Chicago or Fenway Park in Boston was the oldest ball park in the country, but Rickwood has that honor. And it has been kept up well for the oldest in the country.
Back to the Alabama sports campaign. Riley's goal for the $2 million campaign is to boost attendance at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, the Paul Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa and the Superspeedway in the Talladega.
There are many other lesser-known attractions all across the state that pay tribute to the sports stars who have come through Alabama.
Not only is the state of Alabama home to the oldest baseball park, but also we are also home to the game site used by the NFL in scouting the premiere talent coming out of college in the Senior Bowl.
Riley is also trying to stir up interest in the many other events that occur in Alabama. The SEC Baseball Championship is located in Hoover every year and there are four minor league baseball teams scattered across the state.
There is basically one organization at each tip of the state for all those interested in watching the players who could become the MLB's next crop of stars. There are the Huntsville Stars, the Birmingham Barons, the Montgomery Biscuits and the Mobile BayBears.
This campaign by Gov. Riley should spark interest in the many sports venues and attractions in Alabama, as well as the sports heroes who hail from this grand state.
Matthew Nascone is the sports editor of the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123 or online at sports@atmoreadvance.com.