COVINGTON, Ga. — The next time the Eastside Eagles and Newton Rams renew their in-county baseball rivalry, they’ll be doing so in some of metro Atlanta’s fanciest digs.
Thanks to a random encounter Newton baseball coach Andre Byrd had with an Atlanta Braves representative during an offseason clinic, the Eagles and Rams will play Friday night at 7 p.m. at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, home of the Gwinnett Stripers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.
When Byrd chatted it up with the Braves rep and found out the organization was opening up its minor league ballpark to high school teams, the Newton coach said it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“I just remembered as a kid, wanting to play on an actual major league or professional field,” Byrd said. “So to be able to provide that for our kids, I had to jump on it. I never had a chance to play on that kind of field, but for these guys to do it at age 16, 17, 18, that’s going to be pretty special.”
Making it even more special is the fact that Byrd’s players will share the moment with another county school filled with players they’ve grown up with and played with and against for years.
Eastside coach Brandon Crumbley echoed that sentiment.
“I’m sure our guys are excited about it,” Crumbley said. “It’s exciting to be able to play on a field of that caliber. It’s good for everybody, and the fact that we can do it while keeping the rivalry going, it’s better. Our teams have to play each other twice anyway. Why not do it somewhere nice. It’ll be a once-in-a-life time opportunity for a lot of these kids.”
Byrd said one of the requirements for getting the two teams onto the field was that teams had to buy tickets to sell, which Byrd said was a small price to pay for this kind of opportunity.
“We had to pick a game that we wanted to sell tickets to,” he said. “We had like 1,000 tickets at $10 for a chance to go to a game as a baseball family which is something we’d want to do anyone. Each kid’s selling like two or three tickets, so basically for 30 bucks we get our guys in for an experience of a life time. That’s not bad.”
Before either team gets to that game, they’ll both try to take care of business in Thursday night non-region contests. The Rams (7-4), winners of five of their last six ballgames, will host Arabia Mountain (5-3) Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Eastside (8-1, 5-0 in Region 4-AAAA) will look to avenge its only loss of the season when it welcomes Walnut Grove (6-5), also on Thursday night. First pitch for Eastside’s game with Walnut Grove is at 5:30 p.m., while Newton-Arabia Mountain is set to begin at 5:55 p.m.
Going to Coolray
Address: 2500 Buford Dr., Lawrenceville, 30043
Time: First pitch between Eastside and Newton is scheduled for Friday March 9, 7 p.m.
Ticket Prices: $10 for adults and $5 for students.