The 2012 Dixie Boys World Series is one day under three weeks away from kicking off here in Newton County.
The 12-team baseball tournament is not only an exciting time for the 13 and 14 year olds who participate but it has also become something of a tradition for Newton County citizens.
This is the fifth time Dixie Boys has brought their national championship to City Pond Park and the Covington area. The first time was in 1993, a tournament won by Louisiana, which also featured a championship game televised on Sports South.
"That was the most trouble," said Newton Recreation Commission member Ricky Vaughn. "We had to build camera boxes and put in special ground rules."
Despite the trouble of getting the game out to a mass audience, the '93 world series was such a hit that NCRC and the county's leadership decided to continue making bids on the event.
Newton's interest in the event continues even through today as City Pond Park prepares for yet another youth baseball invasion. As a sign of how long the tournament has been calling Newton County home, however, a regional television audience is nothing compared to a worldwide audience thanks to the Internet.
This year, each game will be streamed live across the web from Newton County for the first time in the area's three tournaments.
Nineteen years ago when Tommy Hailey and Newton County sought to bring the national event here, there wasn't even a glimmer of a thought of a worldwide audience.
According to Vaughn, Newton County youth baseball players participated in Little League baseball throughout the 1960s and early 70s, winning several state championships. However, once they reached the state championship level there was no further distinction to be awarded.
"We were looking for something else were if we did win the state we could go to a national final," Vaughn said. "So we added Dixie Youth and Dixie Boys in 1978."
In 1990, Dixie Boys' state director Jim Thornton approached Haley about hosting a world series. At that time, Georgia had not hosted a series in a while and Hailey sought approval from the board to make a bid for the '93 games.
Tommy Hailey and his son went to the 1991 world series in Eufuala, Ala., and then reported back to the recreation board that this is something they should bring to Newton County.
A contingent of Newton County Recreation members including Johnny Pressley, Zuezzette Moth, Luther Baker, Mike Smith and B.C. Crowell, went to Rock Hill, S.C., in 1991 to make a pitch for Newton County.
"It went well and that was the time when they were doing a lot of bidding," Presley said. "Back then, a lot of folks wanted it too; we done well."
Newton County edged out Pellham, Ala. for the right to host the 1993 Dixie Boys World Series.
"It was a big success to local politicians," Hailey said. "I can tell you, you're going to see people you haven't seen in years who will come out."
Hailey estimated around 1,000 people were in attendance for the 1993 championship game.
"There was wall-to-wall people," Vaughn said. "There was nowhere to hardly walk there was so many people there."
With local politicians enamored with all the new faces in their county, Hailey was requested to make another bid. When Hailey put in a bid for the 1997 world series, then Covington Mayor Dr. Bill Dobbs was such a fan of the idea, he went along to place the bid.
South Carolina captured the 1997 Dixie Boys championship in front of a strong turnout.
During the '97 tournament, Newton Recreation got a stronger grasp on how the event would work, with countless committees. For the upcoming 2012 world series, there are several committees such as volunteers, housing, press box, fundraising and others.
"It's a total community effort to be able to do this," Hailey said.
In 2002, Newton County was chosen again, this time with Texas picking up the victory. Four years ago South Carolina won the event, and now in its fifth time hosting it, Newton County and Georgia are looking for a win on its own home field.
There certainly has been the talent, with such standouts as Keith Street, Timmy Hiers, Mat Hiers, Sammy Button, Matt Easterday, Sunny Jones, Brian Matthews and Jeff Key playing for Newton County.
Major league players have also participated in the Dixie Boys World Series hosted by Newton County such as Stephen Drew and Buster Posey. The event provides a great opportunity for smaller towns to see future big league stars.
"Dixie prides itself on putting it on in smaller cities," Hailey said. "If you put it in Atlanta, it's going to be a small fish in a big pond. If you put it in a small town it's going to be the thing to do that weekend."
Newton County will look more like a larger city as the tournament opens in August with a grand opening ceremonies and parade through Covington square to signal the opening of the area's fifth Dixie Boys World Series.