The fourth annual Kelly Russell Classic is living up to the tradition of its predecessors by making it bigger and better each year. The eight-team showcase will be played Saturday at the Russellville High School baseball and softball fields.
Not only will three of the four local diamond teams be involved, but so will baseball alumni from both RHS and Logan County High School. That Clash of the Baseball Alumni Cats will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Kelly Russell was a senior Panther in 1974 headed to the Murray State University baseball team in the fall. He was hit by a lightly lobbed ball in the back of his head while Coach David Phillips’ team was warming up for regional action at Bowling Green High School. The impact of the ball apparently disturbed an aneurism and the talented infielder fell to the ground. He never took another breath on his own.
After deGraffenried Auditorium was filled to overflowing for a funeral service, Kelly’s graduating class went through an emotional commencement service that night. The baseball field was soon named Kelly Russell Field, and a scholarship bearing his name was endowed.
A few years ago the nucleus of that scholarship was so low that the possibility of having to end it was on the verge of reality.
That’s when some of his friends and classmates created the Kelly Russell Classic in 2014 during the 40th season since that fateful day at BGH. Among the leaders have been the school’s athletic historian Greg Owens, who was his teammate in Panther baseball, his best friend, Steve Gilliam, and Gilliam’s sister, Diane Walker; and fellow 1974 class members Jean Sosh Reynolds and Patti Neal Haeberlin.
Kelly’s sister, Jo Anne Russell Bennett (RHS Class of 1963) has been a fixture at the first three Kelly Russell Classics and is expected to be here this weekend from her Colorado home.
Also helping immensely have been Athletic Director Calvin Head and two businessmen, Roy Morgan and Shane Hayes.
Morgan is the namesake and one of the owners of Roy’s Bar-B-Q. That famed restaurant is providing free meals for all eight teams.
Hayes is manager of Gerald Printing, which has been producing shirts for the Classic committee to sell. Gerald Printing is providing blue Kelly Russell tee-shirts for the Cougars’ alumni team.
Diane Walker, who organizes the shirt portion of the event, says those who preordered this year’s shirts can pick them up at the Russellville Middle School Gym Friday between 5 to 6:15 p.m. A few extra shirts will be on sale.
Ticket sales and shirt sales go to the Kelly Russell Scholarship Fund. It has grown considerably during the past three years and more is anticipated from this weekend.
The following six games feature the three local teams:
RHS vs. Hopkinsville—9:00
Warren Central vs. Logan—12:30
Hopkinsville vs. Logan—2:00
RHS vs. Warren Central—3:30
RHS vs. Madisonville-North Hopkins—12:00
RHS vs. Nelson Co—3:00