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He's the heart of Dixie.
Zack Black's longtime work with Dixie League softball has resulted in a significant honor for the Bedford City resident. He was recently inducted into the Virginia Dixie Boys Baseball–Dixie Youth Baseball–Dixie Softball Hall of Fame.
Black was inducted along with Leroy Floyd, of Madison Heights, during a league meeting in Lynchburg.
The honor caps Black's long run of dedication to Dixie ball.
"To me, it means that they honored me for the work I did, chiefly in Dixie softball: to promote it locally, in Virginia and at the national level," said Black.
A native of Pulaski County, but a Bedford resident since 1964, Black is well known on the local scene, above and beyond his work with the Dixie League. He was a teacher at Liberty High on that school's opening day, in 1964.
Black worked in a number of educational positions, including serving as the principal of Bedford Primary. He was also head football coach at Liberty in 1967-68.
His involvement with the Dixie League began through his work with Bedford City Parks and Rec.
Black was elected state director for Dixie Softball in 1989. Frank Perkins, Virginia's current state director, noted, "Zack came in unknown to most of the state organization and quickly earned our respect. We, the league officials, realized he was for the children and would go by the rules to insure that all were treated fair."
In 1999, he became commissioner of the Dixie Belles slow pitch, on the national level. After serving in that role for two years, he became national commissioner of the Dixie Angels (fast pitch). He has remained in that role to this day.
One of his biggest accomplishments was starting up World Series-level play for the Angels (9-10 year olds). During the initial series, at Montgomery, Alabama, Black noted the high level of play. "A little girl from Texas, playing second base, backhanded a grounder over the bag and nailed a girl at third," he recalled. "That proved they were ready to play at the World Series level."
Black has no shortage of love for the league. "I think Dixie is still viable because we place the value on participation," he said. "That's important, because all of the kids are not going to be great athletes. I also like that Dixie is community-oriented."
The admiration seems to be mutual. Starting in 2007, the Angels World Series championship trophy was named in his honor. Nevertheless, Black said that he enjoys giving out the sportsmanship award more than the one that bears his name.
Now, that's a man with heart. Right here in Dixie.