Rockdale baseball didn't finish its season on a high note in terms of wins and losses, but the young Bulldogs team did make the playoffs with its young nucleus of players featuring just two seniors.
In first-year head coach Jonathan Brewer's inaugural season, he worked equally hard to build a young kids into young men as well as build a good baseball team. They finished 12-16 which Brewer says is not acceptable, dismissing youth as an excuse.
When Brewer and the team got started initially, he says the locker rooms were full of trash and mice. Players wore their jerseys untucked and came to practice late.
"When they stepped out there in January, they were like deer in headlights," Brewer said. "I was expecting a lot out of ‘em it was a big culture change so it took us the first month of the year to even adjust to how I wanted things done. Next year we won't have that growth period. We'll be ready to roll. We'll know the call signs, how I like to do things, our approach hitting. So I'm excited in that aspect."
Brewer had to suspend some players for different violations, but it got the message across and he began to see a change in them. He says they got better as the year went on, and they all expect a lot of each other now on the field and in the classroom.
"I thought we had a terrific year," Brewer said.
"I'm looking forward to next year," Brewer said proudly. "Just seeing them grow over the course of the season was amazing and I can't imagine what they're gonna look like maturity-wise, physically and just knowing how I want things done. I'm so excited to see what they look like when they come in."
The Bulldogs level of maturity couldn't have shined brighter than when the team went down to Tift County for its first round playoff series.
Brewer says that his players were called racial slurs such as "monkey" among other things by the opposing team. Brewer, a white coach whose players are predominantly black, says he knows his players were angry, but they remained unhinged and showed true class.
"It's such a shame that things like that happen based on a kid's skin color," Brewer said.
"Obviously they were very, very upset as I would think anyone would be in there shoes, but they continued to handle themselves with class and dignity," he added.
After the game, Brewer says he talked the team about being men, how stuff like that happens unfortunately and about not repaying evil with evil. With their emotions high, the two teams met at the mound and prayed together after the game
"I was just so, so proud of their growth and the way that they showed class. I was just overwhelmed with emotion just because of that. It was really overwhelming to see my kids carry themselves in that way," Brewer said passionately.
The Bulldogs faced a lot of growing pains this season, but they're all the better for it. The 14, 15 and 16 year-olds that make up the majority of the roster are blossoming into young men right before our eyes.