“We have had a great summer.”
Those were the words of Timm Samples, the head coach of the 10-year-old All-Star team from the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority, as he talked about his team’s journey up to this point.
The 10-year-old All-Stars, who have nicknamed their team the Valdosta Sluggers, are preparing to play in the Dizzy Dean Baseball World Series, which begins on Friday in Southaven, Miss. The Sluggers play their first game on Saturday morning.
“A team that went last year (told me that) being there and in that moment, and the boys being able to experience that, is a pretty special thing. We’re looking forward to that,” Samples said. “The boys are ready. They’re excited, they’re pumped up, they’re enthused.”
“(We told them to) enjoy the moment,” Samples added. “We told them we earned our spot, and we’re going to go and we are going to enjoy the moment. ... We’re going to make some noise while we’re there. That’s our plan anyways. They’re confident and I’m confident and the parents are confident.”
While getting to the Dizzy Dean Baseball World Series is a big deal to the team, they would love to win it.
“(We’d like to) bring another World Series championship back home to Valdosta, like the 10-year-olds and the 12-year-olds did last year. That’s our goal,” Samples said.
The Sluggers qualified for the Dizzy Dean Baseball World Series by finishing second at the Dizzy Dean state tournament a week ago at Valdosta’s Freedom Park. The Sluggers lost their first game at the state tournament, but then won six straight games to reach the finals.
“Every time we walked on the field (after the first-game loss), we were facing elimination and being done,” Samples recalled. “Of the six games that we won, at some point in time during the game, we were behind in four out of the six games. ... The boys were not ready to be done.”
“They are playing really good baseball right now,” he added.
The members of the 10-year-old All-Stars are: Andrew Clark, Andrew Nichols, Cameron Carter, Jacob Rogers, Drew Harrell, Weston Roberts, Kaid Register, Jake Hamlin, Cooper Samples, Wade Holton, Drew Anderson and Brodie Whiddon.
Timm Samples, Brett Whiddon, Ward Holton and Jayson Anderson are the coaches.
Coach Samples says he has a versatile team, with players who can play multiple positions. He also believes he has a deep lineup. During their state tournament run, every active member of the Sluggers had several key hits.
“It wasn’t that one or two kids did things the whole weekend long, it was all 10 kids. Every kid on that team did something special that weekend,” Samples said. “We had two games where we were behind in the last inning, and we led the inning off with our 7, 8 and 9 hitters, and we ended up scoring six runs both times. ... It really doesn’t matter where (a player bats), because they all can (hit anywhere in the lineup). They all just pick each other up.”
Pitching is very important in tournaments, and the Sluggers have plenty of it. At the state tournament, when the team played eight games in four days, all 10 active players pitched.
“Pitching is solid. We’ve got 10 kids that will be playing (in the tournament), and all 10 of them can pitch,” Samples said.
Two players — Cooper Samples and Rogers — have broken left arms and will not be able to play, but they are still very much a part of the team. They still put on their uniforms and join their teammates in the dugout, and they bring the lineup card to home plate before every game. The team’s helmets have stickers with the injured players’ numbers on them. They will both be in Southaven rooting on their teammates.
“Their spirit has been unbelievable,” Coach Samples said. “The other 10 have rallied for those two kids. The camaraderie between these 12 kids (is great). The (10 healthy players) are not only doing it for themselves, they’re doing it for two of their teammates that unfortunately can’t help them out (on the field) right now. ... Even though Cooper and Jacob aren’t in the game, they’re a big part of the team.”
Samples says another thing that has helped make this a good experience for the kids is the support of the community.
“(I want to express) our absolute appreciation to the community of Valdosta,” he said. “It has been amazing. The only people watching our game on Thursday night were family members of the boys. By Sunday afternoon in the championship game, the bleachers were completely full, and there were people lined up down the fence line watching these kids play ball. It was unbelievable the people that showed up Friday, Saturday and Sunday in 98, 99 degree heat to watch these 10-year-old boys play ball. ... We are so appreciative of everybody that showed up and came out there and cheered for them and rooted for them. We appreciate the businesses (and people) that have donated money to help us cover costs.
“We just can’t say ‘Thank you’ enough.”
Sluggers heading to Mississippi for the Dizzy Dean tournament
“We have had a great summer.”
- Local Sports
Gillespie, McPherson pleased with spring practices
Valdosta’s Rance Gillespie and Lowndes’ Randy McPherson both think their football teams got better during the recent 10 days of spring practice.
Then again, both coaches know their teams have a ways to go before the start of the football season.
Signing day at VHS
It was signing day galore at Valdosta High School Wednesday.
Six student-athletes signed national letter of intents to compete at the next level, while two VHS athletes both signed academic scholarships to Division I universities.
Powell signs with Shorter
Robert Powell, a member of the basketball team on South Georgia State College’s Waycross Campus, has signed a letter of intent to continue his basketball career at Shorter University in Rome.
Sending the Blazers off
The Valdosta State softball team made the long journey to Salem, Va. Tuesday, leaving Valdosta at 10:30 a.m. with devoted fans cheering them out of the parking lot.
All-Region teams announced
Lowndes was one win away from a trip to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals, and the success by the Vikings this season showed when the All-Region 1 baseball teams were announced Monday.
Lowndes tennis dominates
Lowndes’ tennis team dominated the All-Region 1 teams, with coach Heath Phelps garnering Coach of the Year honors on both the girls’ and boys’ side.
Banks Lake Youth Fishing Derby a success
The 13th annual Banks Lake Youth Fishing Derby held May 11 drew 150 children from ages 3 to 15 who competed for trophies while learning how to fish.
Valdosta's Alakulppi ties for 2nd at state
Valdosta freshman golfer Luukas Alakulppi fired a 71 to finish in a tie for second at the Class AAAAAAA state golf tournament in Tifton.
Brooks County's Parrish in Rivals Top 100
Brooks County rising senior Malkolm Parrish is ranked the 73rd best high school football prospect in the nation, according to the release of the Rivals.com Top 100.
Summer camp information
VSU baseball camp coming soon
- More Local Sports Headlines
- Gillespie, McPherson pleased with spring practices