The Tournament Of Two Towns
GREENLAND HOSTS SECOND JARREN SORTERS TOURNAMENT
FARMINGTON — When Greenland hosted the second Jarren Sorters Memorial Baseball Tournament in March, it wasn’t the first time the communities of Prairie Grove and Greenland connected over a sporting endeavor.
Tournament namesake, Jarren Sorters, late son of Prairie Grove athletic director Joey Sorters and his wife Donna, established a precedent while battling sarcoma, a form of childhood cancer, in the fall of 2015.
Not one to remain idle following the diagnosis, Jarren wanted his life to be productive and volunteered to break down game film for Greenland head football coach, Lee Larkan, a close family friend.
“Joey showed him what to do,” Larkan said. “He was 14-15 years old. It was immaculate. We used everything, every play that they (opponents) ran Jarren broke it down. Here he was living in Prairie Grove breaking down film for Greenland. He had time. He wanted to do it. He was smart, he knew what to do.”
There was no conflict of interest. Joey Sorters didn’t become Prairie Grove athletic director until May of 2017. Prairie Grove (4A-1) and Greenland (3A-1) compete in separate classifications and haven’t played each other at the varsity football level in a long time.
Jarren’s diligence became apparent with the 2015 Pirates going 10-2 and advancing to the second-round of the state football playoffs. Greenland outscored opponents, 401-170.
Larkan authorized Greenland baseball coach Will McGinnis and the Pirate baseball team to host the tournament this year while the Prairie Grove High School team, which hosted the inaugural event last year, traveled to Arizona to compete in the Coach Bob Tournament.
The tournament serves as a fundraiser for the Play4Jarren Foundation established by Joey and Donna Sorters in memory of Jarren, who passed Aug. 11, 2016, to honor his never-quit attitude and promote efforts to defeat the disease.
The towns are 10 miles apart, almost in a straight line from east to west, but even more important is the relationship between the Sorters and Larkan families which began when Larkan, then athletic director at Des Arc, hired Joey Sorters as head coach for boys basketball, girls track and field, and junior girls basketball from 1996-1999. Joey also kept the
Joey Sorters wants to make the tournament an annual event so he asked Larkan if Greenland was willing to host for 2018. Larkan went to work and found interest from teams willing to travel a distance to compete over spring break.
“This year they were going to Arizona so we said we would take it for now,” Larkan said. “We had people from Smackover and people from Oklahoma come.”
The fastest route from Smackover in southern Arkansas near the Lousiana border equals a 300-mile, 4.5-hour drive. Holland Hall, a Tulsa, Okla., school is 120 miles and two hours west. Other teams participating included Charleston, Ozark and Valley Springs.
Greenland beat Holland Hall, 3-1; won a slugfest against Ozark, 17-12; and downed Smackover, 10-1, to win the tournament raising $3,174 to fight childhood cancer.
“We want to try and grow it,” Joey Sorters said. “My vision is to play two fields, maybe even three fields if we can get Farmington involved in the future. That way we can get more teams and play on two or three fields at once.”
Farmington is Prairie Grove’s chief rival, six miles away. The logistics are favorable and Joey Sorters has an ace, Farmington head junior high football coach Tracy Sutton, whose acquaintance goes back to Joey’s coaching days at Des Arc when Sutton served from 19972000 as head coach for baseball and boys track and field plus assistant varsity football coach and head junior high football coach. Sutton’s youngest son, Tate, plays for the Farmington varsity.
“I’m going to talk to our (Farmington) head baseball coach (Jay Harper) about getting it there, too,” Sutton said.
Sutton remembers Jarren’s unconquerable spirit.
“Every time I saw him and I talked to Joey it seemed like it was always an uphill battle,” Sutton said. “Seemed like he never got good news. Never one time did I hear him complain. Out in public he was as strong a young man as you could see. He was a great role model. No matter what your circumstances are, it’s not going to change who you are — because he never changed.”
The Larkan family was touched by Jarren’s compassion in the midst of his own, personal storm that included undergoing a leg amputation in October of 2015. Larkan’s wife, Mary, battled breast cancer during the same time frame and underwent a double mastectomy.
“Jarren came over, he was on crutches…” Larkan said. “He just came over and helped take care of her.”
Since experiencing Jarren’s heart-felt, hands-on approach, Mary Larkan has been good the last two years.
The unspoken mutual aid agreement between families continues.
The Prairie Grove High School baseball program hosted the annual Jarren Sorters Memorial Baseball Tournament March 21-23, 2017, at Prairie Grove’s Rieff Park. Jarren passed in August of 2016.
Donna (left) and Joey Sorters, of Prairie Grove, receive a check from Greenland High School baseball coach Will McGinnis in the amount of $3,174 raised to fight childhood cancer. Proceeds were from the second annual Jarren Sorters Memorial Baseball Tournament, which Greenland hosted during spring break while Prairie Grove’s baseball team was competing in the Coach Bob Tournament in Arizona. Next season the Jarren Sorters Memorial tournament returns to Prairie Grove. Jarren, son of Joey and Donna Sorters, passed at age 15 in August of 2016 after battling sarcoma.
Coaching friends (from left): Prairie Grove athletic director Joey Sorters, Greenland athletic director and head football coach Lee Larkan and Farmington assistant football coach and head junior high football coach Tracy Sutton, developed the foundation of their friendship while coaching at Des Arc 20 years ago.