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It’s all in a nickname for CBFO ‘Voice’ Harris


Wellington Harris never tagged a nickname on a CBFO Softball player that she didn’t like. Or so it seems after a visit to the Northshore Drive softball fields, with young softball players of all ages chomping at the bit to talk about the popular “Voice of CBFO Softball” for ages 5 to 12 in three leagues.

With a booming voice and special style honed as a local radio deejay, Harris tags them with a nickname and fires it off through the field’s public address system as some 278 girls come to bat during the season.

“He makes softball that much more fun, like, to go to games,” said Kendall “Crazy Legs” Knisley of the 11-12-year-old Diamond-backs. “And, like, if we get hurt on the field he’s the first one to rush out there and help you. Like, he has ice ready to go and everything.”

Knisley’s teammate, Paige “Wild, Wild” West, added, “He’s very fun to be around, and he’s a lot of fun with the girls.”

Harris, also the organization’s field director who just finished his sixth season as a volunteer, said “the nickname thing” started in 2001 while joking around with the three daughters of CBFO Softball commissioner Don Hutcheson: Leann, Leah and Laura.

“We were just joking around about me announcing, and I said, ‘well, I’m going to start giving you guys nicknames,’” Harris said. “They were the first three to get their nicknames. The more we played up their nicknames, the more girls wanted nicknames, the more I started getting to know the girls’ personalities and I started giving nicknames.

“For me it works because that’s how I identify a lot of ’em. If I can’t remember a name, I can remember a nickname.”

The 8-to-10-year-old Dodgers, regular season and tourney league champions, insisted that Harris be part of their official post-game photograph after winning the tourney title Saturday, July 1. And that’s not all.

Invited to a recent team party, Harris was given a “game ball” signed by players and coaches.

“It was to say ‘thank you’ for everything he’s done for us ... we love Wellington,” said Missy Waddle, mother of Dodgers player Mikayla “K K” Waddle, as she held a team scrapbook with Harris included. “Wellington has an extended family of fifty children at all times. Every child on this field feels as if they’re his child, and he treats them as such. He’s fabulous. I thought he was a parent because all these children go up to him and hug him and kiss him for everything he’s done.”

The Dodgers players were anxious to praise Harris. “He would cheer us on, like Brooke [Stowell] and Daytona [Perry] hit two home runs, so he gave [them] hot dogs when they did it,” 11-year-old Courtney “Bubble Gum” Bilek said. “He’s really great.”

“K K” Waddle, 10, said, “He’s so nice and gives everybody nicknames. He’s very friendly and never is mean to you.”

Katie “Cool Cat” Storie, 11, said, “I like fact he makes nicknames for a lot of girls, that he can remember all of them. He’s a nice guy.”

Becky “Scooby Doo” Griswold, 10, said Harris is so popular “because he gives all the kids fun, cool nicknames. He likes to joke around and does a lot of fun stuff.”

Ashley Hughey, mother of “Blue Shoes” Stowell, said she is among other Dodgers parents who played in other local leagues until this year, yet “we have never experienced a real ballgame-like experience” such as Harris helped create.

Born in Boulder, Colo., and growing up in Orange County, Calif., Harris, 31, moved to Knox County in March 1996 ’cause my mother [Carolyn] and sister [Myque] were here,” he said. That came after attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1990s, where he played basketball.

“I loved it here, I guess it was the slower pace, relaxed atmosphere, a lot like the area I grew up in in California as far as the family atmosphere — but no beach.”

Hutcheson said he was looking for a field director and met Harris in 2000 just after taking over as commissioner. “About five minutes into the conversation I realized he was the right guy for the job,” Hutcheson said. “Just his attitude, his demeanor, his commitment to youth sports programs.”

A former director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley, Harris said he’s “a big kid at heart ... I like to have a good time and laugh and have fun with them.”

 

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