The boys of Midway-Scottdale aren’t the best team in this week’s Georgia Little League State Tournament, but they were the only ones to score an invitation to Gene Neal’s Columbus home.
On Thursday, while the other out-of-town teams were eating yet another fast-food meal, the Midway-Scottdale players were eating home-grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, taking cuts in the backyard batting cage and challenging each other in Wii games.
“I’m honored to have you guys in my home and to be able to cook for you,” Neal told the boys before leading them in prayer.
When the food was blessed, Neal urged them to “treat yourself just like at home.”
Home for the boys is Scottdale, Ga., an unincorporated community of about 10,000 just outside Decatur.
“There’s not much money,” said George Huff, coach for the team, which were District 3 champions. “Most of our boys come from single-parent homes.”
While teams like Northern of Columbus are all-star teams comprised of the best 12 players from all of the league’s teams, Midway is a league team, meaning it was formed from a draft of players and won its league championship.
That puts Midway at a disadvantage that often shows on the field.
“They are fighters,” said Neal, whose son Garrett is an all-star at American.
“We will never forget the overall kindness of people in Columbus,” Huff said. “I’ve told the boys I hope they will tell people how they’ve been treated here.”