Jared Lankford: A huge difference between value and worth

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

In my house, I own a plastic pig.


To look at the item, there is nothing that identifies it as special, rare or unique.

The molded plastic swine is roughly 10 inches long, 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide. There is a place underneath for batteries. In the animal's mouth is a sensor. When triggered, a cheap voice chip lets out a noise that is supposed to resemble a hog grunt.

Monetarily speaking, you can buy the toy on eBay or Amazon for less than $15. However, to me, its worth is far greater. I will never part with this item -- not for $100, $10,000 or $1 million.

The pig belonged to my late grandfather and holds special meaning to me. I remember playing with it at his house and seeing it displayed on his bookshelf. When I look at the toy, I don't see a hunk of worthless plastic or a cheap novelty item. I see a reminder of the time I spent and cherished with my grandfather. Its worth transcends monetary boundaries, rooting itself into the category of cherished memento.

When it comes to sports -- especially baseball -- coaches often times defer to generalities about playing as a team, putting the ball in play, playing fundamentally sound, wanting to win and playing hard for each other.

But as we know, not all teams are created equally. To some players, the game means more to them.

Take the Purdy baseball team. The Eagles have been a model of constant success. Over the last 11 seasons, Coach Joshua Hughes has guided the Black and Gold to nine Ozark 7 Conference championships, six district titles and a 275-175 record (61 percent).

No other baseball team in southwest Missouri can boast stats like those. Baseball is a serious issue in the Ozark 7 Conference. Most of the small schools in the area are without a football program, so they banded together to play a fall baseball season.

Hughes credits this fall season as the source of his team's successful run. He loves to point out that by the time his sophomores finish their spring campaigns, they have played as many varsity seasons as seniors at Monett or Cassville.

However, there is something different about the way Purdy goes about its fall season. Unlike the other schools that play in the fall, the Eagles have to fund their own team.

In the 2009-2010 school year, districts in Missouri were dealing with budget cuts. Purdy was not immune to the revenue shortfall. One of the programs that saw a cut in funding was the $6,200 fall baseball budget. The district reasoned that since the fall

season was essentially glorified practice, it was expendable.

The players, coaches and parents immediately offered a solution -- raising money privately to continue fall baseball.

The district saw no issue with this solution. For the last seven years, the Eagles have held 5K runs, coached clinics, worked tournaments, umpired games, hosted car washes and helped area farmers to raise the $5,000 to $7,000 needed to pay for the fall season.

To Hughes and his team, getting those extra fall repetitions is something that they have to earn, both on and off the field.

While some student athletes may take for granted the opportunity to put a uniform on and play for a school, the players at Purdy know exactly what the cost is for that honor.

The players cherish each pitch, inning and season because their literal blood, sweat and tears paid for that experience.

That is why I believe the Eagles have continued to ride a wave of success because they know the difference between the value of a game and what life lessons of responsibility and dedication are truly worth.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He can be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com, or 417-847-2610.

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