More than 100 volunteer coaches came together Monday for the 11th annual Volunteer Coaches Banquet at Patriots Park.
The banquet, held every year at the Patriots Park Gymnasium Complex, honored the volunteer coaches who gave their time and expertise in 2005 to coach 4,500 young Columbia County athletes in a variety of sports.
"It's always a pleasure to see all the coaches come together like this," recreation manager Charlie Beale said. "We couldn't be more grateful for their help."
While enjoying a full meal, the Recreation Advisory Board recognized Coaches of the Year in the recreation department's eight team sports, then honored a special volunteer coach.
Mike Leverett, a former Harlem baseball player who also saw time in the Atlanta Braves organization, coached the 2005 Georgia Dixie Debs to a World Series Championship in August in Dothan, Ala.
The fastpitch softball team, made up of Columbia County All-Stars, received their World Series rings Monday night and had a chance to thank their volunteer coach for his hard work.
"He's a great coach," said Kayla Adams, a senior at Greenbrier High School and member of the championship team. "He's our friend. We couldn't be more grateful for all he's done."
In its weeklong trip to the Dixie World Series, the team lost one game early but rebounded to win a nail-biter in the final game. The Dixie Debs sealed the championship when Jenni Massingale scored the winning run on a passed ball.
"Mike was one of the first ones there," Massingale said. "He came and picked me up and wouldn't let me down."
The Dixie World Series Championship was the first ever for the state of Georgia. Leverett said that in his 10-plus years of coaching fastpitch softball, this past year tops them all.
"I've had some good teams in the past, but this has probably been the best," he said. "I love it. I'll volunteer all summer long."
The volunteer coaches banquet also honored the Columbia County Parks and Recreation Department's 2005 Hall of Fame inductees, Steve Jones and Jimmy Tankersley.
Jones, an employee of the recreation department for 28 years, was forced into retirement for health reasons in October. Jones started his career as a regular maintenance worker but climbed the ranks to become the Recreation and Parks Department maintenance supervisor over a staff of 15.
"The condition and upkeep of the Columbia County parks is directly related to this man," Beale said.
Tankersley has served in the recreation department's softball program for 25 years and on the advisory board for 20 years. Beale said Tankersley has also played a key part in the purchase of Patriots Park and increasing the size of the Harlem City Park.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.