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Mickey Mantle's legacy gives hope for young athletes to follow in his footsteps

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Mickey Mantle Field in Commerce, Okla. Mickey Mantle Field in Commerce, Okla.
Mickey Mantle appears in a 1950 team photo of the Joplin Miners. Mantle is the 5th player from the left on the second row. Photo courtesy: MickeyMantle.com Mickey Mantle appears in a 1950 team photo of the Joplin Miners. Mantle is the 5th player from the left on the second row. Photo courtesy: MickeyMantle.com
Mickey Mantle holds his glove in the air during his time with the Joplin Miners. Photo courtesy: Joplin Museum Complex Mickey Mantle holds his glove in the air during his time with the Joplin Miners. Photo courtesy: Joplin Museum Complex
This plaque outside Mickey Mantle's childhood home in Commerce, Okla. talks about his early days learning to play baseball. This plaque outside Mickey Mantle's childhood home in Commerce, Okla. talks about his early days learning to play baseball.
This photo shows the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids in 1948. Mickey Mantle is pictured 8th from the left (beneath his signature). Photo courtesy: KansasMemory.org This photo shows the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids in 1948. Mickey Mantle is pictured 8th from the left (beneath his signature). Photo courtesy: KansasMemory.org
One of baseball's most recognizable names may have never came to be if his mother hadn't refused advice by a doctor in 1946.

In his book, "All My Octobers: My Memories of 12 World Series When the Yankees Ruled Baseball," Mickey Mantle recounts his memory of an injury a doctor said might require his leg to be amputated and his mother's refusal.

Thanks to his mom's decision, the man known as the "Commerce Comet" leaves a lasting legacy - giving hope to some young athletes in northeast Oklahoma.

Isaac Shelton, Chase Cunningham and Carlos Pinales all play high school baseball.

Just like every field has a home plate, each of these boys shares a common dream to represent their hometown like the late baseball great Mickey Mantle.

"He was probably one of the greatest baseball players ever," said Isaac Shelton, Commerce baseball player.

Everyone knows about Mantle's success for the New York Yankees and his 12 World Series appearances in 14 years, but his roots in northeast Oklahoma could easily be lost among the fame he received in the national spotlight.

"We have a huge natural resource with Mickey Mantle's legend. Not only here, but in Baxter and in Joplin," said Brian Waybright, Commerce athletic director. "It definitely puts this whole area on the map."

The baseball field in Commerce is appropriately named "Mickey Mantle Field."

Mantle's old high school even today hosts an annual wood-bat tournament called the "Mickey Mantle Classic."

In his early days, Mantle played for the "Joplin Miners" and the "Baxter Springs Whiz Kids."

He blasted onto the national scene in the 1950s - switching from short-stop to outfield.

"I want to try to do like I feel like he would do out there in right field," Shelton said.

"You can say, 'Well, he came from the same place I'm at, so I can do this too.'," said Bill Rogers, Commerce baseball coach.

"Everybody's heard how far he can hit the ball, but they were absolutely amazed, and so was I, when he hit a ground ball to second base and beat it out to first base," Waybright said.

"I think sometimes it gets mind-boggling to some of the kids and even to myself the amount of success and how talented he was," Waybright said.

Mantle's childhood home still stands today at 319 S. Quincy in Commerce.

It's where Mantle learned to play the game.

Commerce High School short-stop and pitcher Carlos Pinales lives nearby.

"His dad and his grandpa, they taught him how to switch hit," said Carlos Pinales, Commerce baseball player.

Mantle's dad, Mutt, pitched right-handed.

His grandfather pitched left-handed.

A plaque outside the home reads, "Every day when his father returned home from the mines, he and Mickey would start batting practice that lasted until dark."

"The barn still sits here today where he claims that his dad and his grandpa would toss a ball to him, and he'd hit it into the barn. You can even still see the dents in the barn from where the balls hit," Waybright said.

Just like the switch-hitting lessons Mantle's father and grandfather gave him, Mickey's success teaches these Commerce players to have hope to follow in his footsteps.

"I feel like I can go out and achieve great things, just by seeing what he accomplished in his life," Shelton said.

"It really tells me that anything can happen if you give it 100 percent," Pinales said.

"If you put your mind to it, you can achieve big things, and he pretty much did that," said Chase Cunningham, Commerce baseball player.

The Mickey Mantle Classic next year will expand to Joplin.

Event organizers have teamed up with the Joplin Sports Authority to establish the Miners Division, which will be played at the historic Joe Becker Stadium.

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