Minor League Baseball is a wonderful concept.
Not only does a minor league team cater to smaller market towns craving local entertainment but it also provides a big-league club with an entire roster of active, healthy prospects for the future.
Most people might not know it, but that's exactly what we have in Columbia County.
It's no secret that high school baseball in Columbia County features some of the best talent in the state. In a county with no college or pro ball, high school baseball is the highest level we have.
At that level, the county has annually sent at least one contender, if not more, deep into state tournament contention since the Harlem teams of the 1970s.
During the past 32 years of high school baseball, the county has produced 20 state championship teams. Two of those titles came this past season from Greenbrier High School and Augusta Christian Schools.
Sure, we've had great coaches and top-notch varsity programs, but let's at least give some credit to our Minor League farm system: the Columbia County Recreation Department, Martinez-Evans Little League and travel teams.
Three boys baseball teams from the Columbia County Recreation Department are showcasing the best that the county will have to offer in three Dixie Baseball World Series Tournaments. For most of the summer each team, split up by age, wore the label of "Columbia County All-Stars." Now they're known as Team Georgia, and could soon become Dixie World Series Champions.
In Martinez-Evans Little League, the Junior League All-Star Team wrapped up its season at the state tournament semifinals - only two games shy of the Junior League World Series regional tournament.
With that kind of talent, it's safe to say the next four or five years of high school baseball is looking pretty solid.
But wait. There's more.
The Columbia County Stars, a traveling baseball team made up of boys ages 15 and under, have already claimed a World Series title. The team accomplished the feat in Orlando, Fla., two weeks ago when head coach Billy Gamblin and his Stars won the 15U Freshman AAA USSSA World Series. A total of 20 teams, some from as far away as Michigan and Minnesota, qualified for the The Stars breezed through the winner's bracket with a 5-0 record and 37-12 scoring margin.
Unlike the Columbia County Recreation and Martinez-Evans Little League teams, many of the Stars players will make an immediate impact on several high school teams next spring.
The Stars, made up mostly of rising 10th graders, boasts players from all over, including Lakeside, Harlem and Evans high schools. Some of the boys, such as Harlem's Patrick Gamblin and Mike Brewster, have seen regular playing time at the varsity level, while others, such as Evans' Jeffrey Rice, will probably start in the spring.
In this county, the Stars are the Class AAA Minor League team.
With one 10th-grade team holding a USSSA World Series title, a freshman team vying for a Dixie World Series title and two middle school-age teams doing the same, our high school coaches must be licking their lips.
Their Minor League system is about to make a major impact.
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