Several players and assistant coaches from the 1992 Ridgeland team that won both the subregion and Region 7-AAA championships were on hand prior to the Panthers' game against LFO.
That 1992 team, who had lost to Northwest Whitfield three times in the regular season, rallied from a one game down against the Bruins in the best-of-three series to capture the region crown and earn the program's first-ever state tournament berth.
And now, the Panthers' home field now bears the name of their former coach, James T. "Jay" Smith.
Smith was the first head baseball coach in Ridgeland High School history, compiling a 62-60 record from 1990-1993 and again from 1994-1996, finishing up with a .508 winning percentage with the Panthers.
He was named the 1992 Coach of the Year by the Chattanooga News Free Press and the Chattanooga Times, as well as receiving the 1992 Scrappy Moore Baseball Coaches Award for the Chattanooga Area.
He was also a very involved community member as a Christian leader, a father, a husband, a teacher, and a friend to those he taught, coached and worked alongside.
"Jay Smith was a friend and almost like a father figure to me," said current Ridgeland head baseball coach Scott Harden. "To be able to name this field after him is tremendously satisfying knowing what all he did to lay the groundwork here at Ridgeland. The fact that I'm now standing in his shoes as coach is an honor, but also a little intimidating considering the monster he built here and how much it has grown. To have his family back here tonight is exciting and it means a lot."
Smith passed away in 2000.
"This is such a special time," said Smith's wife, Martha, better known as "Bama" around the Ridgeland community. "He worked so hard and he was such a humble man, he'd probably be mad about all this because it was drawing attention to him. To him, it was always about the kids and the program."
Martha said all she could do was cry when she found out Harden's plan to name the field for her late husband.
"It really caught me off-guard," she said. "Scott kept it a secret for a long time before he told me. One night after practice, he took me out to the pitcher's mound and told me to turn around and look at the scoreboard. Then he said (the scoreboard) wouldn't look the same anymore because they were naming it after James."
She added that while baseball was important to her husband, more important to him was how the game was played and the benefits his players received from playing it.
"Baseball wasn't work to him," she explained. "It was just a game and that's the way he wanted it to be played. You played it, you enjoyed it, and you learned life lessons from it. Then you went out and used those lessons in your adult life. He just wanted his players to go on and be a success in whatever form they chose, and many of them have done just that."