Major League Baseball All-Stars Buster Posey, J.D. Drew, Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre all had their first taste of the spotlight during the Dixie Boys World Series, giving baseball fans their first sights of the future of baseball when they were just 13 and 14 years old.
Last week, there was a new generation of players who gave Newton County residents their first look at what may be a future MLB player or two as the 2012 Dixie Boys World Series put on a show from Sunday through Wednesday at City Pond Park.
The biggest highlight of the event, hosted for the fifth time by the Newton County Recreation Commission, was the host team, the Newton County All-Stars, coming back from the brink of elimination to play in the championship game against Georgia's World Series' representative. But the World Series featured several other key games, moments and players to stand out in the memories of those who attended the 12-team tournament.
But of course, the players created the most buzz, led by Georgia's Chandler Delevie. Georgia's catcher led the World Series' field with four home runs, 17 runs batted in and 26 total bases. Newton County's Nick Womack was second with three home runs followed by a bevy of players with two.
A Georgia player also led the World Series pitchers as Drew Reeves tallied the most strikeouts, with 20, including nine looking, was one of four players with two wins and had the most innings pitched with 13.
Newton County's Blake Shope and Austin Taylor finished second and third in innings pitched, with 11 1/3 and 11, respectively. Shope also was second with 19 strikeouts, including seven looking.
Of course, the rain and storms that came through Newton County on Aug. 3 was the first memory, pushing the whole event back a day.
The rains remained a looming presence throughout each of the four days.
However, once the show started, all attention was aimed strictly toward the field.
The World Series' first games were highlight-reel filled spectacles which took two days to complete. After the Aug. 3 games were postponed because of the weather, North Carolina led South Carolina 4-3, thanks to a three-run home run in the bottom of the second inning, and Arkansas led Louisiana 4-1.
However, when play resumed Sunday, South Carolina came storming back with a 10-run fourth inning and defeated North Carolina 23-13. Louisiana had a big inning itself, putting up nine runs in the bottom of the third to spark a 14-5 victory.
Shortly after South Carolina advanced, Georgia took the field to start its unbeaten streak. The West Georgia All-Stars was the only team to proceed through the double-elimination World Series without a loss. It won its first game in just five innings, beating Virginia 15-1.
The host team also lost on that first day, falling to Texas and one of the tournaments best pitching performances by Chris Booth.
On the second day, the World Series saw its first eliminations as North Carolina sent home Southwest Arkansas and Virginia sent home Hardin County, Tenn. Newton County also picked up its first win that day, defeating and eliminating Laurel-Jones County, Miss.
The third day went much like the first for Georgia, as the West Georgia team routed Louisiana 10-0 behind 12 hits from a lineup that was starting to get buzz around City Pond Park.
In a matchup to determine who would go on to face Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana had one of the most drama filled games as North Carolina led 10-3 going into the bottom of the seventh.
Louisiana put up six runs in the final frame, coming up just one shy of the rally and a spot in the semifinals. The excitement continued into the semifinals as Newton County took a 4-1 lead over Alabama before having their championship hopes threatened in the bottom of the seventh.
Alabama loaded the bases twice before its final three outs were up, and had runners on second and third with two outs and a 1-2 count before Nick Womack's strikeout ended matters.
The two Georgia teams were among the tournament's best pitching staffs with West Georgia leading the way with a 1.79 ERA and Newton County second with 2.05.
West Georgia struck out the most batters, at 56 and Newton County was second at 49.
Newton County allowed just 12 walks, fourth fewest, but played more games than Alabama, Texas or Virginia. Both Georgia teams also allowed the fewest home runs, with one apiece.
Newton County's pitching staff was backed by one of the tournament's most clutch defenses, producing a tournament-high four double plays, 123 putouts and 42 assists.
While Newton had some of the best pitching and defensive stats, Georgia led the way on offense, producing the most hits (60), home runs (7) RBI's (48), total plate appearances (205) and total bases (92). Georgia finished second in batting average (3.47) to North Carolina (.353) and on base percentage (.444) to Florida (.473).
With all the highlights that the individual players and teams provided, the highlight to many though, was seeing the teams come together as young baseball players got to live out their dreams of competing in a World Series.