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Newton County braces for Dixie World Series
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Tommy Hailey has plenty to be excited about.

And not just because he returned from Yankee Stadium for the first time after watching New York battle Oakland on the diamond.

No, Hailey is thrilled because in less than a week, Newton County will be hosting its fourth Dixie Boys Baseball World Series.

Hailey, director of Newton County Recreation Commission and current Dixie Boys assistant state director, has been to the majority of the World Series' since 1991. Yet this year should be quite different

The last time Newton County hosted the Dixie World Series was in 2002. The previous times were in 1993 and 1997, and the last time a Georgia team won was in 1998.

No tournament a Newton County host team has ever won. Past Dixie World Series winners include Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.

Hailey recently sat down with The Covington News to discuss the upcoming tournament:

Question: How has everything progressed so far regarding the Dixie Boys Baseball World Series?

Answer: "I think it's been going well. We were awarded the tournament a couple years ago. That's the good thing about Dixie baseball (give you plenty of time).

"The first bit of business was to form some committees and gather enough people in the community that we knew had helped before, or someone who'd be willing to step up in a key leadership role.

"It's something once you've done one you learn a little bit, done two you learn a little bit more. You don't want to cut back on showing the people a good time or cut back on what you can offer for the kids. Just from a financial standpoint, I've learned a lot of things."

What's the most difficult aspect of hosting a tournament of this magnitude?

"Just having people who've been through it; you have to be able to delegate responsibilities to your staff. That takes a lot of the load off myself, because when this thing's going on we still (have) day-to-day operations to run, too.

"We've learned that since we've done it three times before, we can do it. But we've also learned we can't wait until the last minute, and anybody that tries to is asking for trouble. That's the biggest thing - don't wait until the last minute. Our reputation is on the line, and we want these people to want to come back one day if we ever offer something else."

Who else has helped you regarding this event?

"I couldn't do it all. We got good people; our people in our program are great. We've got good volunteers, coaches and team moms. They step up to help and I appreciate that. I don't think we could operate without them. Ricky (Vaughn) does a great job of running the athletic programs, too.

"My faith, too, in God has helped. I know a lot of people use that as a cliché and stuff like that, but He's given me the ability to be able to lead and do this, and I need to honor that first. He put me in this position where I'm able to do things - work with kids who I enjoy to work with. I love being around athletics, and I love being around kids. Giving God the glory for doing this is the key thing.

"I need to thank my recreation board. They've been so supportive of me over the years; they don't micro-manage. They're appointed by the board of commissioners, who I have to thank, too. Never once have they come in and said no to hosting a World Series. They're attitude is go for it; let's showcase this.

"Lastly, my wife - I gotta thank her, because I'll tell you what there's been many, many sleepless nights. The people from Dixie have been great to work with, too, especially Sandy Jones (Dixie commissioner/CEO). He's a great person and former recreation director, and the best thing we've ever done has been to name him CEO. Jimmy Brown (former Dixie commissioner, life member) has also been a major influence. We've got a good working relationship and fellowship with these guys."

What's the benefit of hosting a Dixie World Series?

"Why do we do this? (Pauses) No. 1 is to give our kids the opportunity to play in a World Series that play in our program, whereas if they had to go to the state tournament they might get eliminated; that's the key thing. No. 2 is showcase or county and city, but the third reason is we're hired here to serve the people of Newton County, and my staff is hired to serve the people of Newton County. If we ever get complacent with what we do then I need to move on, or a staff member needs to move on.

"The focus ought to be where people realize we're here for the people of Newton County, not for ourselves. We do this because we want to do this, and it's something special. We're fortunate to be involved with an organization like this. There are some great people, and I've been fortunate to meet some key people who have been able to help us secure these types of special events."

Call Newton County Recreation Commission senior administrator Tammy Cheek at (770) 786-4373.