A trip to any home Harlem baseball game will reveal some stunning athletes. There's an all-state pitcher, a strong power hitter or two and a whole slew of state champions.
They're not in the dugout, though the 2007 Bulldogs are a strong Class AAA team this year. The star-studded roster lines the right field fence at each Harlem home game.
Sometimes 15 or more strong, the group is made up of former Bulldogs baseball players. Now grown men with families and full-time jobs, their days of dominating the high school diamond have long passed, but they return to the baseball field for nearly every home game.
Almost all of them are past players of Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis.
"I see them out there every game: Dietmar (Perez), Doug James, Steve Beasley and a ton more. There's a bunch of them," Lewis said.
At each game, the former Bulldogs line the right field fence and stand on chairs to get a better view of the field. The Harlem dugout separates them from the home bleachers.
Harlem public address announcer Greg Aplin installed some padding along the top of the right field fence at the beginning of the year to give the former Bulldogs a more comfortable place to lean. By the time region play rolled around, the group had outgrown the padding.
"It's like a brotherhood, a fraternity or something like that," Lewis said. "They're coming back to make sure the old man is keeping up the pride of the team."
Lewis said it takes only one bad coaching decision to get an earful from his former players during the game.
They're also the first to offer a congratulatory handshake after a win.
The handshakes have come at a steady pace this season, the Bulldogs finished the 2007 regular season as the Region 3N-AAA champions and second in the region finals.
Expect the same former Bulldogs ball players to line the fence at game time Friday. That's when Harlem will begin their Class AAA state tournament campaign.
Troup, the team that ended the Bulldogs' season last year in the second round of the state playoffs, will come to Harlem again this season for a first-round series.
The best-of-three series will begin with a double-header Friday at 3 p.m.
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