DIXIE LEAGUE – When the call went out earlier this off-season that The Dixie, one of the Association’s oldest and most storied leagues, might have to suspend operations before the 2016 season, teams from across the old south responded. The Dixie League had wasted away to just 3 remaining teams, the 2015 runner-up and 2016 AF Pro Bowl New Orleans Black Hats, the Florida Jesters playing out of Sarasota, and Coach Scarlett the Red’s Little Rock Radio Flyers, and, since League bylaws require a minimum of 6 teams, it looked like the league was going to have to shutter its doors like so many other small southern minor league organizations of the past. With a rallying cry of “Save The Dixie”, independent teams, non-aligned teams, teams jumping from other leagues, and even one exhibition barnstorming team all signed on for the 2016 season to keep the League alive.
A minimum of 3 teams were needed, but in the end 7 teams were welcomed into the league setting up a healthy, ten team contest for the season. The Sanford (Fla) Celeryfeds, of the Florida State League, were the first to heed the call to action, jumping leagues to enter. The Celeryfeds’ coach had an earlier affiliation with The Dixie, having coached the 2013 Auburn War Eagles. Sanford was quickly followed by the Flat Rock (N.C.) Renegades who left the East Coast League to become a part of The Dixie, and then the Andalusia (Ala) Arrows, jumping from the Alabama State League.
The Non-affiliated Carolina Rebels and the Birmingham Eagles (not connected to the old Auburn War Eagles) signed up to play, followed by the Houston Africans of the Negro Texas League. The final team to come onboard was the Westfield Bombers, a barnstorming exhibition team based out of the Nashville suburbs in the winter and Massachusetts in summer, confirming at the very last minute that they would sign on to be the tenth team.
The draft went off as expected when you throw ten ball clubs from multiple leagues together at the last minute. Several teams made their picks remotely or sent messengers with pre-ordered draft lists, a couple franchises showed up late, or not at all. But overall, it was still a success. The Houston Africans selected Antonio Brown first overall, with Julio Jones following him off the boards, going to the Florida Jesters. The biggest surpise of the first round, was the Andalusia Arrows taking The Brother Eli at 3rd overall. 4th and 5th belonged to running backs as the Celeryfeds and Radio Flyers selected David Johnson and Todd Gurley, respectively.
Odell Beckham slid all the way to 6, where the Eagles snatched him up for a steal, and the New Orleans Black Hats, last season’s DLCS runner-up made Lamar Miller the 3rd RB off the board with the 7th pick of the draft. The Bombers took A.J Green at 8th overall, Flat Rock made A.P. a Renegade with the 9th pick, and the Carolina Rebels rounded out round 1 with rookie phenom Ezekial Elliot.
With just over two weeks until the start of play for The Dixie’s 6th season, the league’s double-header schedule should be released soon, and we’ll keep you updated here, first.