There is a small town down the road a little ways from Altus named Tipton. It is a town of roughly 850 people. You could pass through it in a few minutes and if you are not going there intentionally, you may not even know it is there at all.
This tiny town has a big secret.
Though recreational sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer are played around Tipton, you would not call it a hub of all things sports. There is, however, a little known team that goes by the name of Tillman County Warriors — or TC Warriors for short.
The Warriors have been competing in the 10-and-under circuit of OK Kids Baseball since April. In that time, they have compiled an 18-1 record, their lone loss coming from a pitching rule that cost them the game.
They played in the Shortgrass Tournament — a tournament they had never played in before — and won it.
Just this past weekend, they entered the Playing For No. 4 tournament in Elk City and took home the runner-up trophy. The tournament was a benefit for 10-and-under player Hayden Helton who tragically lost his life in May. All the money raised from the tournament went directly to Helton’s family. It was more than a baseball game. It was also a reminder of how precious life is.
Coming up over the Fourth of July weekend, the Warriors are holding a fundraiser in Tipton to pay for their trip to the regional tournament in Durant. If they win there, they will move on to the state finals where they will be pitted against other teams for the ultimate prize.
This team — coached by Deej Ramirez, Greg Nunley and Brian Sheffield — has been together for a few years now and they have worked extremely hard to get to this point. Ramirez has kept a roster made up of at least five of the original kids who have been there since the very beginning and he knows — as good as they are — they have not reached their ceiling yet.
He maintains the field they practice and play on in Tipton. Ramirez receives donations from the people of Tipton, but a lot of the money comes out of Ramirez’s own pocket. It is something he does not mind as he has only ever done it for the kids and the joy they get from being a part of something like this.
“A ball was hit in the outfield and there was a kid who ran one way and ran the other way and he caught the ball. He got so excited,” Ramirez said. “He came into the dugout high-fiving everybody and kids at the age they’re at, need to see that kind of stuff. It benefits them to get out and play with other kids and have fun and gets them off the electronics.”
Ramirez got his start in coaching when he started coaching T-ball. He worked hard then, as he has continued to do today, to give the local kids something to look forward to each summer. It did not take long for the league in Tipton to die off. People were taking their kids to the Frederick and Altus leagues and city league baseball in Tipton became a thing of the past. That is what prompted Ramirez to get this team going.
“Nobody here in town wanted the responsibility of the field or a team so Deej started coaching his son and started a team here,” said his mother, Betty Manriquez. He picked up kids from other towns to get a complete team going. He took off with this putting money from his own pocket. He and Greg Nunley still do to keep this team going. These kids have opened up to him and look up to him. His dedication to this team is his hobby. There is no more hunting or hanging out with his buddies. The TC Warriors are family and I am very proud of him.”
Now, his team is among the top in this area, with a chance to become the best in Oklahoma, when it is all said and done. Ramirez is excited and so are his players and he cannot wait for the kids to get the recognition they deserve — a recognition that is hard to get when one is from the small town of Tipton.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.