Questions and Answers with IPRD’s Mike Markins

Tryve Brackin
Mike Markins

How long have you been with the Iberville Parks and Recreation District (IPRD)?

For 21 years this October…I served as the Program Director from 1990 to 2001 and became the overall director in 2001.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the program since you began?

I think the main change has been parent involvement, both positive and negative. The days of sandlot pickup baseball games for kids are over. Today, everything is organized and that has brought the parents more and more into the picture.

I see more parents getting involved as coaches and so forth and supporting us in other ways. And, of course, the interest has grown for our special events like the “Boo on the Belleview” at Halloween time and the various seminars we put on at the Civic Center.

The negative is what is becoming the increased pace of everyday life for families. We see a lot more families where both parents work, sometimes in two jobs. We see a lot more situations nowadays where parents drop off their children for ball games and depend upon other to care for them. The fast-paced lifestyle of today has created a lot of less family involvement in our programs.

But, you have always gotten tremendous support from former players in the program as far as helping out, coaching, and being around the ballpark. Can you discuss that?

Oh, yes. We have had many, many former players show back up at the ballparks to help and especially coach. Some have coached for many years. And we have kids who loved to be out at the park and we have actually hired some for our staff. We have one that has been around so much he fits right in and knows everything about what we do.

We know the Civic Center is very popular for large gatherings. How has the booking for the facility been lately?

We stay booked throughout the year on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The midweek times are booked often, but you can find a spot in advance.

How does it feel to have seen kids from the IPRD programs advance on to high school, college, and professional levels?

It has been unbelievable over the last twenty years. And I see it continuing. We have eight girls currently playing high school softball at local schools who were on the World Series runner-up team in 2008. That is an outstanding group that will continue to make sports headlines.

I look at how successful former players like Ja’Kouri Williams, Tony Lamothe, and Roddarick Jones have been in high school and college sports and that really makes me feel like we have accomplished something on their youth level. And, we have had a lot of successful business people and professionals come out of the ranks of IPRD ball down through the years.

What is your most memorable team from the program?

Actually there are two: The 2008 World Series Babe Ruth softball girls, and then our first state championship baseball team, our 1993 13-year old All-Stars.

Like I said we have girls off that great softball team who are playing at St. John, Plaquemine High, Brusly, and White Castle and they are all gaining honors from all-district to all-state. It was such a thrill to see them go all the way to Pennsylvania and battle to the end in the World Series championship. They were unbeatable through state and regional play.

Our 13-year old boys won state right here at Belleview Park as the host team in 1993. They played in the Southwest Region tournament in Del Rio, Texas. That was exciting for me because it was our first state championship baseball team. Players off that all-star team went on to reach state runner-up honors at both St. John and Plaquemine High in later years, so just imagine what could be in the making for the current softball girls.

Brian Willis, David Smith, and Bob Templet coached that baseball all-star team, while Erik Willis, Dwayne Theriot, and Kenny Yarbrough coached the girls. You are talking about former PHS, St. John, and White Castle baseball players right there.

The 10-year old all-stars just won the state title. That must be a thrill for you as well.

Oh, yes. We are playing the trip right now. Our IPRD staff will handle all the arrangements for the trip to the regionals in Texas and let Coach (John) Barbee, and the other coaches, have the freedom to coach the boys and not worry about hotel accommodations and so forth. That is why have the IPRD.

You have served as the State Babe Ruth Commissioner for five years now. Plan on giving it up?

Not if don’t have to. I really enjoy doing it and it does not disrupt my time with the IPRD and brings benefits to our local program.

What is in the future for the IPRD?

We have developed great support from the mayors of the parish communities and that has given us the open door to improve programs throughout the parish communities. We see growth in the programs throughout the parish and that includes sports and other recreational activities. We have a “kids first, not politics” attitude these days.

We also have less kids joining travel teams because of travel expenses these days and that has increased the numbers in our programs.

And we continue to promote walking trails, tennis lessons, arts and crafts, library programs, Boo on the Belleview, and clinics and seminars. And our various sports programs reach kids from four to fifteen years old.