“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
Prince Automotive donates new baseball equipment
Prince Automotive of Valdosta is supporting the Valdosta community through its partnership with the Valdosta/Lowndes County Recreation Department. The dealership has joined forces with the national Chevrolet Youth Baseball program to provide new equipment, instructional clinics, and a monetary donation.
Needmore holds final races before big Memorial Day weekend
Saturday night racing at Needmore Speedway saw some new faces in victory lane.
That wasn’t the case in the Late Model division, as Valdosta's Gene Ross drove to victory once again, but not without some close competition from Steven Roberts who came in second.
In the Limited Late Model class, it was another win for Cole Exum, with Gene Maine finishing second in the NAPA Auto Parts special.
VSU softball wins South Region, headed to nationals
For the third time in four years, and second in a row, Valdosta State’s softball team will play in the national championship tournament.
The Blazers won their third South Region championship Saturday, beating Alabama-Huntsville 8-3 in game three of the best-of-three series at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
VSU baseball season comes to an end
Delta State scored seven unanswered runs to defeat Valdosta State 7-2 in an elimination game of the NCAA South Region Tournament at the UT Baseball Field Saturday afternoon.
Blazers take 1-0 series lead
Angela O’Connor launched a pinch-hit two-run home run over the left-field fence, tying the game against Alabama-Huntsville in the bottom of the sixth inning, and sparking the Blazers and their fans along the way.
Blazer baseball stays alive, beats Stillman
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Lowndes’ Ty Harwell and David Wortham won’t have to go far to play college baseball.
Blazers host respected rival UAH in Super Regional
One would expect a matchup featuring two of the top softball programs in Division II to come in the national championship game.
Unfortunately for Valdosta State and Alabama-Huntsville, who have combined to appear in four straight national championship games, they won’t be meeting in title game on Memorial Day in Salem, Va.
Pop Warner Football coming to Valdosta
Pop Warner Football is coming to Valdosta.
The nationally known organization that puts an emphasis on education and developing American youth has been established in the Valdosta area and will begin playing football this August.
Blazers lose to Delta State, fall to loser’s bracket
If the Valdosta State baseball team is going to win the South Region Tournament, the Blazers going to have to do it from the loser’s bracket.
The Blazers (33-17) dropped their first game of the tournament Thursday, falling to Delta State 4-2 at UT Baseball Stadium.
VSU will face Stillman College, which lost to No. 1 seed and tournament host Tampa Thursday, Friday at 11 a.m. to advance to the weekend portion of the tournament. The loser will be eliminated.
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