COVINGTON, Ga. — In the last week several Newton County area travel teams have either won a United States Specialty Sports Association World Series, qualified for one or have seen players play well enough to warrant being named to USSSA showcases.
In some cases, it’s been all of the above. What’s the takeaway for area baseball aficianados regarding all of this summer ball success?
“Be patient Newton County,” said Newton Rams head baseball coach Andre Byrd. “We’ve got some major talent on the way.”
Byrd was able to speak from personal experience, given the fact that his 10u travel squad, Mayhem Bad Boys, went to Gulfport, Mississippi last weekend and brought back the 10u USSSA World Series Crown in just the second year of the team’s existence.
Byrd coaches the team made up of Newton County area elementary school students from West Newton, The Theme School, Fairview and Rocky Plains. But Byrd credits the work of a pair of team dads — David York and Tinsley Bailey — for doing a lot of the leg work to formulate this championship bunch.
“It was really a couple of dads who went out on a limb and did all the paperwork and grinding for us to get certification,” Byrd said. We all met while playing recreation ball, and we all agreed that we kind of wanted to branch out from recreation and get some better competition than what we got there.”
The USSSA offers that on three levels: AA, AAA and Major. All new teams start at the AA level and can be moved up based on years of experience playing together and performance.
Last year’s Mayhem squad finished third in the 2017 USSSA World Series as a first-year AA team, and was promptly moved up a level for the 2018 season.
“That was a great accomplishment for us to be moved up in just our second year,” Byrd said. “On the Major level, you get to go on these big tournaments and play the top competition. We haven’t made it there yet, but we did have to beat some Major teams on the way to our World Series win.”
Byrd’s 10u title squad may have some company by week’s end, depending on what the Newton County 8u Royal All-Stars do as they compete in the USSSA 8u World Series June 26-30, also held in Gulfport.
The Royal All-Stars, led by coach Tom Kolnik, punched their ticket to this week’s World Series by sweeping the competition in last week’s qualifying play. The 8u team will carry an undefeated record to Gulfport Tuesday.
Additionally, three Newton County area players were named to the USSSA All-American Showcase Team which will play its games during the week of August 4 through the 11th. Those players are William Cutshall (9u), Hudson Reed (10u) and Christian Taylor (14u).
Taylor will be a sophomore at Eastside High School next year, and all players were selected from among the best USSSA baseball players in the Southeast.
All of this was not lost on Byrd who, even in the midst of celebrating the success of his own team, couldn’t help but to share kudos with the area’s other successful programs while allowing himself to daydream a bit on behalf of the area’s other high school coaches.
“It really does make me feel happy to know that within four or five years, these kids will be players and contributors in high school,” Byrd said. “And it just goes to show that Newton County baseball talent is not dead. Far from it. I think what we did and what others kids are doing on the other teams around here show that this is still a hotbed for baseball talent.”