After clinching a spot in the Georgia Dixie Youth Baseball state tournament, the 13-year-old West Georgia team has turned its focus from bases to dollar bills.
The local youth baseball team is raising money for the three-day 14U tournament that begins July 14 in Eatonton. Head coach Philip Clark, whose son Kyle McFadden is on the team, has been helping the squad get ready for what he thinks will be a worthwhile experience.
“I think the biggest part of it is them being able to see talent outside of the city of Columbus and west Georgia and them being able to experience the tournament feel,” Clark said. “When you have back-to-back games, it’s about digging down inside yourself and finding out what you’re made of because you just played three games in two days and you’re beat down. You’ve got to put the cleats on, do it again and put everything you’ve got into it.”
Along with a 50/50 raffle that will be conducted on the team’s Facebook as well as a GoFundMe page, The 13 boys have been taking donations outside local restaurants such as El Vaquero, El Carrizo and Clearview Barbecue. Clark explained this experience has been a positive one for the team and cited an example that stood out.
Clark said one of his players asked a gentleman for a donation but shyly avoided eye contact. The would-be donor asked the player to look him in the eye and tell him a little bit about what he would be investing in.
The boy obliged, and pretty soon, so did the man.
“It makes them more aware of what they’ll have to do in the real world when they have to speak to people,” Clark said. “Some of the kids have really come out of their shells from where they didn’t want to do anything but hold a bucket or a sign. Now, they’re more outgoing and want to speak to people and understand what it is they’ve got to do.”
The boys will be back at Clearview on Friday from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., one of many opportunities that Clark hasn’t taken lightly.
“It’s overwhelming,” Clark said. “Those (businesses) that allow us to do that, we’re so appreciative. They’re putting the dedication of these kids sometimes ahead of dollars that go into their pockets. This is something these local businesses are willing to let happen so these boys can go on and achieve what they’re trying to achieve.”
Clark said the money will go toward travel expenses including hotels, food and gas for the players and their families. He hopes that the team raises enough money to save some in the event the team advances to the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series in South Carolina, at which point the team will need travel funds plus new uniforms.
“Not all the parents who signed (their kids) up for a community league have the financial ability to be able to go to these hotels and pay for these different sets of uniforms,” Clark said. “It’s really big on our behalf to alleviate some of that financial pressure from the parents and do it through community dollars.”
Clark thanked the parents and the players for their dedication to the team. It’s paid off with a trip to the state tournament, something Clark emphasized not every young player gets the chance to participate in.
If Clark and his players can have it their way, the trip to Eatonton will only be the beginning of their summer baseball travels.
“We hope to go up there, stack up well and see what happens,” Clark said.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports