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Mena, Arkansas, News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Mena scores two 2023 Southwest Arkansas Softball Hall of Fame inductees

By Ethan Nahté

The 47th Annual Watermelon Festival in Hope took place Aug. 10-12. Friday evening, before the annual Watermelon Festival softball tournament, Southwest Arkansas Softball Hall of Fame held their induction ceremony.

Of the 16 inductees, two of the newest members are Gary Davis and Johnny Davis, both from Mena. The other 2023 inductees: Walker Clark, Robbie Franks, Michael Gaylord, Brian Glass, Shawn Hardage, Dionne Hopson, John-Michael Hunter, James “Jebbie” King, Mike Simms, Ricky Sooter, Undra’ Stanley (Dra Day), Brian Toney, Tracy Trusty, and Jay Turley.
Formerly known as the Amateur Softball Association of America, the governing body is now USA Softball. It oversees more than 150,000 amateur teams nationwide.

Gary said, “I played the game of softball for over 35 years and enjoyed it tremendously. In my years of play, I won six-straight league championships, 15 years of Top 5 state championships and 12 years of regional championships. I also served as league president for eight years.”

Johnny said, “Thank you for choosing me as an inductee. I have played softball for 40 years. I started right after I graduated high school. My jersey number was No. 21 and my defensive position was left field.

“During my years of play, my team won Class D State in 1994 and finished third in the Southwestern Regional in Norman, Oklahoma. In 2001, our team finished second in Class D State. We also had the opportunity to play in the World Series in Florida.”

Afterward, Hall of Fame committee member Bobby Copelin said, “Congratulations on 80 years of softball, combined organizing, sponsorships and all of the hard work it took to play that long. I was fortunate enough to play on league teams and in several league, regional, state and world tournaments, as well as the Busch-Pepsi Softball Classic. With these guys, we placed as finalists. It was an honor to get these guys inducted.”

Gary said, “My greatest memory is when my team played in a regional tournament at Lawton, Oklahoma, and we lost our third game to a team that was only 35 miles from where we lived. We had to play back-to-back games in the loser’s bracket to only meet the [same team] again in the finals. We beat them twice to win the tournament.

“Best of all, I got to travel to a lot of cities to play tournaments and got to meet some great athletes and made friends, especially all of those I had the pleasure to play with.”

Copelin is the former interim parks and recreation director for Tapley Park. He has been on the Arkansas Softball Hall of Fame’s committee for the Mena, De Queen and Waldron area since 2022. Copelin played for 30 years, and he’s played with or against many here in the region that are worthy of nominating for the Hall of Fame. He keeps an eye out for up-and-coming players who are worthy of consideration for the SWASHOF award.

“I’m going to stay on this board,” Copelin said, “and give the people of our area the recognition they deserve. Women will also be considered in the future.”

Gary said, “I’d like to thank all of those men and women who are out there trying to keep this sport alive and allowing me to be a part of this special occasion.”

Johnny said, “In the last few years I have been blessed to play alongside my oldest son John and my two grandsons Austin and Dawson.”
“I encourage young or old players to keep playing. It’s a sport that is rewarding,” Copelin said.

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