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McDonough hosts 13th straight World Series

 

Yard Dogs pitcher Ali Banks (right) keeps a runner close at first as he pitches in the championship game. His performance helped Decatur win this year’s title.  Photo by Alex Welch

By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor 

    The American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) Roberto Clemente World Series returned to McDonough for the 13th consecutive year, bringing players, coaches and team family members from all across the United States. With a weekend packed with baseball, Richard Craig Park stayed busy as the host site for the eight teams playing in the tournament.

  The festivities began on July 24 with a reception held on the Square. All eight teams playing in the tournament were introduced, Mayor Billy Copeland welcomed everyone in attendance and the crowd was treated to dinner with live music afterward. The tournament, which featured players ages 8 and under, spanned over the course of four days, with the final game bringing the World Series to a close on July 28.

  Tournament director and McDonough Youth Association baseball director Dwane Williams said the teams in the World Series needed to win their league and state tournament, and then win at the region tournament to advance to McDonough. This year’s list of champions included the Sante Fe Braves from Sante Fe, New Mexico; the College Point Stars from Queens, New York; the Detroit Bees from Detroit, Michigan, the Macomb Muskies from Macomb, Michigan; the Midland Blackhawks from Cin-cinnati, Ohio; the Georgia Yard Dogs from Decatur, Georgia; the Arrevica Mets from Puerto Rico and the Red, White and Blue Gamers from McDonough.

  According to Williams, who has been the tournament director for all 13 years, each World Series has always been a success for the city.

  “Everybody loves it. I haven’t had a team leave disappointed yet, about the city,” said Williams. “It brings in a lot of revenue and spreads the name across the U.S.”

  Williams said he helps find accommodations for the teams. He develops a list of potential motels around McDonough and allows the parents and coaches to decide which location suits them best.

  But motels aren’t the only businesses benefitting from the influx of visitors.  The tournament also provides hundreds of people who eat at local restaurants. Gloria Ramos, grandmother of Puerto Rice third baseman Sebastian de la Cruz, raved about H.J. Wings & Things. She said the team ate there Friday night, which might have “provided some extra fuel” for their win on Saturday. She praised the city and all that is has to offer.

 “This has been wonderful. This is a terrific experience for the kids. It’s the first time here for my grandson, and he’s just overjoyed,” said Ramos. “I certainly would love to come back next year.”

  Each team brought dozens of fans with them to cheer and represent their part of the U.S. Eliud Reyes, business manager for the Mets, said Puerto Rican teams always have a great turnout from their fanbase. 

  “Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S. that has very deep roots in baseball, so anywhere a baseball team goes out and has the name Puerto Rico on the shirt, everybody follows. A lot of them came from the island, and some of them are from this state and surrounding states,” said Reyes. “There’s nothing better for anybody from any country than playing with your country’s colors. It’s great for the kids, and for us as coaches, it makes us proud.”

  Last year’s tournament saw the Decatur Yard Dogs face the Puerto Rico champion for the title. This time around provided a similar matchup, with the Yard Dogs reaching the championship for the second straight year to play the Mets.

  The double-elimination tournament created a Sunday showdown for the title, as the one-loss Mets bested the undefeated Yard Dogs 12-4 on Saturday evening. Decatur would not be denied for the second straight year, though.

  Pitcher Ali Banks managed to keep the Mets in check for the majority the final game, and some clutch hitting by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player William Geter ultimately led to the Yard Dogs coming out on top 7-4.

  Decatur head coach J.R. Daniely knew it would be a tough road after Puerto Rico won on Saturday, but he rallied his troops together for the final game. He said he was proud of their performance.

  “I gave them a good old war speech about blood, sweat and tears, and believing in themselves. No matter what, they’re going to face some adversity in the game, but they had to be resilient and still fight.”

  Daniely has grown familiar with McDonough after two trips to the championship in the last two years. He said Richard Craig Park was a great spot to hold the World Series.

  “It’s a great location. I have to commend them. We play on these fields all the time,” said Daniely. “They did a great job fixing the fields up and representing McDonough well.”

 McDonough initially signed a seven-year contract to host the World Series. Although there is no long-term contract in place today, the city continues to win the bid for the tournament. AABC President Richard Neely said there hasn’t been a discussion about changing locations.

  “They do a great job and run a great tournament. We haven’t even looked at moving it,” said Neely. “One of the most unique things is that the fans sit in the outfield. I think it’s great because they’re cheering for all the kids. If somebody makes a great play, everybody claps.”

  The Gamers started off with Donnie Sandifer winning the Home Run Derby. He belted eight homers in the final round to win. Gamers head coach Chuck Turner said Sandifer “deserved it,” noting the 8-year-old’s power has continued to grow each year he’s played.

 

 

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