Every time Central Arkansas lines up against Missouri State in athletics, I can’t help but remember my childhood.
I was born in Springfield, Missouri, home to Missouri State University, although growing up the school was called Southwest Missouri State.
Growing up in Springfield has left me with many fond memories and occasionally makes me a little homesick for the city.
In fact, when UCA and MSU played their first football game this fall on Sept. 26, I was reminded of those memories and a desire to visit the city soon.
I was able to bring my wife along early in our marriage to Springfield and show her the house I grew up in; the elementary school I went to; the piece of land where the middle school I attended once sat before it moved into a new building; my best friend’s house; the high school I would have attended had we stayed in Missouri; and the church my family attended.
Springfield is a great town, and it is one that provided me with a lot of memories both playing sports and attending sporting events.
I played baseball and basketball every year that I could and playing those two sports evolved my love for both.
I played through many basketball organizations growing up, but the two I really remember is playing through Upward and then for two years in a program called “Shooting for Christ,” which my parents created at the church I attended.
The program was to mirror Upward, but as a cheaper alternative.
Both years I played, I was coached by my dad and those were some great memories.
In seventh grade, I began playing football and basketball for my middle school.
While showing my wife a yearbook picture from seventh grade basketball, I was reminded of a story of how lucky I became during a game after seeing a teammate in a cast in the picture.
A guy on the opposing team grabbed a steal and was running toward the opposite end for an easy layup, however, I got a chasedown block and we both fell to the floor.
Later on in the game, my teammate did the same thing and he ended up breaking his arm on the fall.
I remember my dad and I sat on the berm at Hammons Field for the inaugural Springfield Cardinals game.
But, I really remember going to Missouri State sporting events.
My dad and I attended several Missouri State football games at Plaster Stadium throughout my 14 years in Springfield.
I don’t recall many opponents, but I remember MSU not being very good.
The Bears were 4-6 during the 2005 season, the last football season I lived in Springfield.
I also remember going to Missouri State baseball games at what was then called Price Cutter Park, home of the independent baseball team Ozark Mountain Ducks, and then at Hammons Field.
There, I got to see former Philadelphia Phillie Ryan Howard and former MLB reliever Brad Ziegler.
My family went to church with Ziegler and he officiated games in my parents’ basketball league.
I asked him for a few autographs as well as some pitching tips.
And then, we went to numerous Missouri State Lady Bears games.
Like the MSU baseball team, the Lady Bears were perennial conference contenders and made it to the NCAA Tournament on occasion.
One name that will always resonate with me is Jackie Stiles.
Stiles broke and held the all-time women’s scoring record in 2001 and held the record until 2017 when a Mike Neighbors-coached Kelsey Plum broke the record.
My family was in the stands the game Stiles broke the scoring record and I don’t recall a stadium louder than John Q. Hammons Arena being on that day.
Stiles moved on to play professional basketball both at the WNBA level and overseas before having to retire due to injuries.
All this is to say that for UCA fans that have the time to make a trip up to Springfield when the purple Bears play MSU, go visit Springfield.
Tickets to Saturday’s football game were still available Friday afternoon.
It’s a great place with a beautiful Missouri State campus.
It holds several of my memories and it is a short three-and-a-half hour drive from Conway.
And, it is quite close to Branson.