Each town in East Texas seems to be blessed by a place that is the center of the community. It may be the square, or the courthouse or a favorite café. In Quitman it must be the Governor Jim Hogg City Park. The 23 acres in the middle of town are central to nearly all community events, including the annual Old Settlers Reunion celebrations.
Hogg City Park
A review of summer sports activity in Quitman begins at Hogg Park. The rationale is simple: Hogg Park has probably the best children’s playground in the county. A variety of slides and swings, safe and ample climbing devices, a splash pad, and above all else – shade.
Fortuitously, the park adjoins the Wood County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The property is administered by the board of the Friends of the Arboretum. A long-term lease solidifies administration of the 38-acre tract.
Deanna Caldwell, president of the arboretum, describes the land as a “public garden focused on horticultural education.” This year, the arboretum is sponsoring a 5K run and kids fun run on Saturday, July 20. The event is a fundraiser for which sponsorships are still available. Athletics, once again, provide the vehicle for a community endeavor.
Quitman City Pool
The Coach Delbert Ballard Memorial Pool represents another jewel of the Quitman community. The pool opens June 1 and closes one week before the start of school. Certified pool operator and technician Susan Rogers, now in her fifth year running the pool, voices enthusiasm regarding the water quality. She summarizes the pool in one word: “clean.”
Her efforts and those of the city council have resulted in re-plastering, a new chlorinator, a new filtration system, and new CO2 and enzyme systems on her watch. “The technical aspects of water quality must be in place first,” stated Rogers.
The pool opens for two sessions daily: noon to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Swimming lessons are also available, with two morning options. Local residents may book the pool for private events. It remains a popular option.
“It is a wonderful asset for Quitman, especially the youth,” commented Rogers. On an average day 50-75 youngsters will enjoy the facility. A stable of six lifeguards provide oversight. The plaque naming the pool for Coach Ballard states: “He devoted his life to his family, community and the youth of Quitman.” It is a most appropriate comment to adorn the entrance to the pool.
Quitman Youth Foundation
Spring and summer would not be complete without baseball and its cousins, softball and Tee-ball. The Quitman Youth Foundation manages 21 teams participating in all age groups. An additional eight teams are in the learner’s league.
The foundation maintains four playing fields on the edge of town just south of Farm to Market Road 2088. The girls teams compete on Monday and Thursday evenings, and the boys on Thursday and Friday evenings. Parking will cost you $2 for hours of entertainment.
Foundation president Rodney Kieke spoke highly of the formative effects of youth baseball on the local kids. As both the city administer and a Rotarian, he described the foundation’s efforts to “maximize the fundraising results” to ensure long-term program viability.
The league offers spring ball within the Texas Teenage Baseball/Softball Association. Based on the competitive fire evident in youngsters’ faces on a recent Monday night, the league promotes those qualities of competition which nurture young folks into adulthood.
Quitman Select Ballers
In its second year of operation, the Quitman Select Ballers have doubled their participation. The program operates as a part of East Texas Hoops. The mission of East Texas Hoops is to provide an outlet for youth of all ages to develop and hone their athletic skills on the hardwood.
Tania Kernes, president of Quitman Select Ballers, explained youngsters are grouped together by school grade, starting with grades 3 and 4, through varsity. Quitman fielded two junior high teams this season, one of which won the four-team tournament in Edgewood May 4.
East Texas Hoops coordinates play days and tournaments at area locations. Schools rent their gymnasiums out to the organization. A review of scheduling for June reveals local events: June 1 in Wills Point, June 8 in Greenville, June 15 in Mineola, June 22 in Winnsboro, and June 29 in Greenville. Separately-scheduled Monday, Tuesday and Thursday leagues are also available.
Kernes explained the genesis of her group, “We are just a group of parents who got together so our boys could play basketball during the spring and summer. The boys love having the opportunity to play in the off season and have a chance to better their game.”
As the adjacent photo attests, young athletes are having a great time participating.
A new sport devised in Australia to train youngsters in the basic techniques of rugby may soon be making an impact in Quitman. Oztag is a remarkably simple game based on the rules of rugby; however, it is a low-impact sport using Velcro strips such as in tag-football.
As Kieke explained, the game teaches proper tackling positioning on defense and running to daylight on offense. It is also a self-regulating game, with the simple rules of the game being taught by a single referee.
The sport has taken hold in the Austin area. According to Kieke, schools and coaches are beginning to see the benefits of the sport, as the skills are directly transferable to American football.
Off-season Strength Training
Quitman Bulldog Athletic Director Bryan Oakes is pleased to recognize the doubling of off-season strength training participants over the past two years. The weight facility is open 6:45 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. Monday through Thursday for athletes in grades 7-12.
New tennis courts at Quitman High School are becoming a reality. The six new lighted courts should be ready for next year’s spring season. The courts will be built at the same location, just behind the high school between the school and the softball field.
Discussions are underway to convert part of the old rodeo grounds in the ballpark and pool complex to multi-purpose playing fields. The 11-acre city-owned grounds could be used for a variety of sports and recreation.
Several new initiatives have joined time-honored institutions, such as the Ballard Pool, to provide Quitman residents a wide variety of sporting options. The common thread in all these initiatives is a sense of community.