A somewhat small-but-growing Newton County will be represented in a huge way in the baseball scene in just a few weeks’ time as the Newton Dixie Boys Baseball team is headed to the Dixie Baseball World Series in Bluffton, SC to represent the county, as well as the entire state of Georgia.
The 12-team double elimination tournament is one most on this stocked team are used to, as six of the players on the current roster were on the team last year that placed third in the tournament in Alexandria, Louisiana.
This year, however, they are looking for more, and they came a long way to reach this point.
The road to the World Series started with a hard-fought run in the state tournament that was filled with hard fought games with a triumphant outcome.
“We started out really well and we were just destroying teams,” said head coach David Callaway. “But then in game three, we played until 2:00 a.m.” This late game was caused by a weather a delay that would provide one of the more memorable moments of the tournament.
“We were up 3-0 when Raquis Holmes came up to the plate,” he said. “He hits a home run, and while the ball is in mid-air, the lights go out because they had set them to turn off automatically at 12:15, so we were all joking that it was the home run that knocked the lights out.”
While the players and coaches enjoyed laughs and a victory in the late game, the tall task of having to play again the next morning at 10 a.m. in an overall grueling tournament schedule would prove to be a test to the kids’ determination and will for the rest of the games.
“The kids are 14 years old,” Callaway empathically stated. “They’re tired. They’re worn out. They have only gotten six hours of sleep, so they got out there and were just playing individual baseball, and we lost 2-1 in game four.”
The one loss wouldn’t send the Newton boys home packing, though, as it came down to three teams, all with one loss. Callaway noted that they lost a coin toss that would’ve given them a bye, so they had to win two more games to win the tournament, which they did in a display of heart and determination from the team, including a comeback from two runs down against the team that handed them their only loss in game four to take the game 8-4.
The wild ride of the state tournament has brought them to the end of it all, where for many of the players, it will be their last chances to play recreation baseball when they begin the tournament against Mississippi.
But until then, Callaway and assistant coaches Chris Middlebrooks and Gary Thompson are focused on installing a particular mindset in the team to get them ready for this huge opportunity.
“There are two things you control in baseball and that’s attitude and hustle,” Callaway said, “So we go out there and practice hard.”
He also noted that the unity in the Newton County baseball scene is a strength for his team entering the tournament.
“Most of these kids have played together since they were five and six,” he said. “You can be good with individual talent across the board, but if you want to be great, you have to be a team player and play for each other instead of for yourself.”
Coach Callaway also wanted to shout out the other Newton County team in the state tournament that was a blend of 13 and 14 year old players. “They were preparing for next year while also giving some 14-year old’s that weren’t on the top team a chance to play.”
The Newton County Dixie Boys will play in the tournament kickoff game vs Mississippi on August 5 at 1:00 p.m. where a win would see them play the winner of Florida vs. Alabama.