After the 2006 baseball season ended less than a month ago, area baseball coaches wasted no time preparing for the 2007 season. Greenbrier, Evans, Lakeside and Harlem high schools have all participated in a full summer of competition for their junior varsity and varsity programs.
Weekend tournaments have been going on since June 3, with local schools taking turns as host. This weekend, the largest of the summer tournaments will take place in the form of the Greenbrier Slugfest.
"There's 30 different teams included now," Greenbrier baseball coach Rodney Holder said. "We actually had to turn four teams down. We didn't have the time or the space."
Other schools in the county have put on their own tournaments through the month of June, but Greenbrier's Slugfest is the biggest and longest-running. Holder said the event started in 1994 at Evans and moved to Greenbrier when the school opened.
This summer, the Slugfest will celebrate its 12th anniversary and will see teams come from all over the state, including 2006 Class AA state champion Lovett, Liberty County, Tattnall Square, Parkview, Brantley County, Effingham and South Effingham. The event crosses state lines when Aiken High School participates in the four-day event.
The tournament, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, will see games played at Greenbrier, Evans, Lakeside, Harlem and Westside. In the summer months, Holder said, parents play a significant role in making the tournaments possible. All the effort and time spent combines with the strong competition and the more than 300 ball players for an ideal situation for college coaches.
"Locally, it's the biggest tournament of the summer. A lot of the local colleges are going to come out and watch these kids play," Holder said. "It's good for everybody. They know there's going to be a recruiter at the field watching."
Greenbrier and Evans will each field three teams in the tournament, while Lakeside has enough ball players for four teams. Lakeside baseball coach Jay Matthews said adding a fourth team is helpful in the summer months.
"Our numbers aren't greater than the other schools, but we feel that the parents and the kids have more fun with it when we have four teams. The more teams, the more they get to play," Matthews said.
With most schools fielding a varsity, junior varsity and freshman team during the spring, Matthews said, the summer tournaments are a perfect opportunity to get a first look at the new group of athletes.
"That's our largest team. We have 16 incoming freshman," Matthews said. "This gives us a chance to see how they play. In that respect the summer is more beneficial to the coaches than the players."
Holder said fans from all schools are welcome to attend games at any of the five sites. Most of the action will take place Friday and Saturday.
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