Other fans say that when the Russell County High School Warriors take to the field and their opponents come to bat, J.C. Dykes calls the strikes.
"He's usually sitting right behind the umpire," said Bill Starke. "He'll holler 'Yeah!' That means a strike."
It's a call Dykes won't have to make at the Seale ball field that now bears his name. It's a T-ball field, for the youngest players, whose early play one day may help them become champions, like the Warriors.
Never miss a local story.
Dykes' grandson Cody Dykes played on the high school's 2005 champion baseball team. But it wasn't the grandfather's devotion to the Warriors that put his name on a plaque at the Russell County sports complex. It was his dedication to ensuring the kids in his hometown had a place to play, without having to drive miles away.
Now 64, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease and several kinds of cancer for which he's in chemotherapy, Dykes figures the effort to give the local kids a ball field started about 15 years ago, when the principal of Seale's old Chavala school signed a yearly contract to let the local youth league use a field there. Parents fixed it up and got things going. Dykes did much of the maintenance, keeping the grass mowed.
He kept at it, even when he fell ill, said his daughter, Theresa Temples. "If he felt like it needed doing and he felt like doing it, he did it," she said.
He devoted that same energy to getting the county to build the new sports complex near Russell County High. "J.C. Dykes and myself were the ones who selected this site," said Starke, whose brother Wendell bought and donated to the county about 4 acres for the new T-ball field. Starke said it was given to the county on two conditions: that only kids age 8 and younger would use it, and there would be no play there on Sundays and Wednesday nights, when the nearby Silver Run Baptist Church would be holding services.
As the field was dedicated in Dykes' name today, the opening day for fall ball, the T-ball players all came by, one by one, to hand him a piece of bubble gum. Dykes was known for handing the treats to children.
Starke noted Shriners like to say that no man ever stood so tall as when he stooped to help a child. "I've never seen anybody stoop more than J.C. Dykes," he said. Dykes would always get down to the child's level to hand over a piece of gum, he said.
"We have some of the best children you'll ever run across, the best mannered," Dykes said after the ceremony, as kids and parents came by to give him a hug and have their pictures taken.
He looks forward to a day when the complex hosts high school and Babe Ruth tournaments, and expects he'll live to see that, too, despite his declining health. "It's all just been a blessing," he said. "You can't say it any other way."
Does he really sit behind home plate at Warriors games and call strikes?
He smiled. "You'd be surprised how many times you can make an umpire make a mistake," he said.