North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

July 25, 2013

Community Champions: Mickey Yarbrough helps state softball champions as he awaits transplant

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

HAYDEN — This profile of an NJN Community Champion was featured in our Progress 2013 section.

It is a sometimes thankless job, that of a scorekeeper for a baseball or softball team.

There’s minutiae of all sorts to deal with, and almost as many judgement calls as the umpires on the field of play.

Was that an error on the shortstop that let the batter reach first base safely, or was it a base hit all the way? Did the runner advance on a wild pitch or a passed ball? And by the way, make sure you counted all the runs correctly, since the scoreboard isn’t official — assuming there’s one available at all.

Mickey Yarbrough was the man for Hayden High School’s softball team during the last three seasons. At home games, he would take his place in the Wildcats dugout, close by head coach John Simmons as he watched his granddaughter Katie Parr pitch and play third base. And since the Cats’ relatively-new softball field doesn’t have a scoreboard (yet), it was his job to keep track of the score batter by batter — very important in close games against area rivals Mortimer Jordan or Curry, but also when Hayden was running up the score on a lesser opponent, and getting close to winning by the mercy rule.

Yarbrough was fortunate enough to go along for the ride all season, and what a ride it was. The Wildcats got past the Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets — arguably their toughest foes at any level of the post-season — and went all the way to the AHSAA Class 5A State Championship in Mont­gomery. It was the first varsity state title in any sport in Hayden High history.

But hardly anyone knew that Yarbrough was in his own post-season battle: waiting for a new liver.

He’s now in line for the next available organ to be transplanted by UAB Hospital, and sixth overall in the southeastern United States. The need stems from a hereditary condition instead of a specific disease.

The wait for a donor organ hasn’t slowed him down in the least. Over the past couple of weeks, Yarbrough has followed his granddaughter and her travel team to Tennessee, to Cullman and to other summer tournaments. And when it is basketball time, he’ll be on the sidelines again, keeping stats for Simmons as he watches Parr play center for the Cats.

Being on the sidelines is almost second nature for Yarbrough. He has coached ball teams for more than three decades, much of that alongside his son Mikey, who was an assistant for Hayden this season.

“Me and him started the Diamond Divas softball team years ago,” Yarbrough said. “Mikey keeps the fields up at Hayden — he cuts the grass and such.”

Yarbrough started watching Parr play varsity softball at Tabernacle Christian School. When her coach left the school, Parr left the Torches and tried to enroll at Mortimer Jordan in hopes of finding a better level of competition. But she didn’t live in the Blue Devils’ school zone, and ended up at Hayden instead.

“I said then she might get a state championship at Hayden — if they could just get past Jordan,” Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough is retired from 41 years with ACIPCO, where he worked in the machine shop.

Yarbrough, who turns 65 next week — “and just in time for Medicaid, that’ll come in real handy,” he joked — has been told that a transplant should become available within the next two or three weeks.

“I’m kind of dreading it, but I want to get it done so I can go through rehab and be ready for basketball season,” he said.