Chuck Williams: Nothing against Warner Robins, but Little League Southeast regionals would have made sense in Columbus

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 29, 2013 

Special to the Ledger-Enquirer/Joy Sloan. The Northern Little League All-Stars dug out of an early three-run hole to beat Warner Robins 8-7 in the Georgia major baseball state championship Friday. 07/26/13

Hey, Gov. Perdue.

How’s retirement going? You have been out of the spotlight since you left office almost three years ago.

Gone, but not forgotten, I say. I hope life in Houston County is treating you well.

You did some really good things for this region during your eight-year tenure. That Kia plant up in West Point is going gangbusters.

That deal is working out nicely for all concerned. Kia is selling everything it can make in that facility and a lot of folks from Columbus to Metro Atlanta have good jobs and nice benefits.

Thanks.

But that is not what I wanted to talk about today. I wanted to talk a little baseball — you know, Little League baseball.

They say you were a pretty good player in the Warner Robins Little League back in the day. Don’t know if you heard, but Columbus Northern beat your old league for the state championship last Friday. It was a great game that was worthy of being played in South Williamsport, Pa., during the World Series. Since 2006, there have been five World Series appearances between Northern and Warner Robins American. Northern and Warner Robins both have won it all.

Not bad.

All that is said to establish the importance of Little League baseball in these parts. It matters, probably sometimes more than it should. But if you have to go overboard on something, it might as well be Little League baseball.

Which brings us to 2008. The Southeast Region of the Little League was looking to relocate its offices and baseball and softball regional tournaments from St. Pete. Columbus desperately wanted it. The local Sports Council was in the bidding, and thought it had a decent shot. Warner Robins wanted it, too.

Columbus was prepared to turn Golden Park and the South Commons into a Little League mecca, complete with an onsite office for Southeast Regional personnel. It would have made perfect sense.

Warner Robins shut us out, thanks in part to a $598,640 state grant. Using an old baseball adage, many of the folks around here thought that was a little home cooking. No hard feelings on that one, though. When Roy Barnes was the governor and we had a powerful and influential General Assembly delegation and some of his best friends down this way, we got a little home cooking, too.

The folks in Houston County also chipped in on the $5.5 million project. Little League got 26 acres and $250,000 from the county’s development authority. They are got about $500,000 of in-kind work from the city.

I would say the folks over that way were playing to win. And, the finished product in Warner Robins is spectacular.

But it probably should have been here and we will never really know how hard you went to bat for Warner Robins. You can take the boy out of Bonaire, but you can’t take Bonaire out of boy.

I am willing to bet they could have probably done everything Little League wanted and then some for half the money over here. And they would have had two stadiums — one for softball and one for baseball.

On the surface, Columbus made more sense — economically and otherwise.

This would be a pretty cool place for Little Leaguers from Virginia to Florida and their families to spend a week. When they aren’t playing in a stadium or two steeped in baseball or softball history, they could be enjoying the National Infantry Museum or the Chattahoochee whitewater course. I know, they have a little military museum over that way, too. But last time I checked there was no whitewater rafting.

And, you could have put the teams and their coaches up in the Columbus State University downtown dorms.

Now, I have been to Warner Robins in the summer, and we will just leave it at that.

They have an outstanding row of fast-food restaurants. And it’s a short trip to Lane’s — love that peach ice cream.

Take care, governor. I am sure some of the folks from Columbus will be making the short trip to Warner Robins this week in their new Kias.

And they might stop even at Lane’s.

Oh, well. You win some and you lose some. Right, governor?

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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