For as long as I can remember Columbia County has always had solid baseball. From the Harlem teams of the 1970s and '80s, the Evans teams of the '80s and '90s and Augusta Christian and Greenbrier in the mid '90s, one of the main ingredients in the county's recipe for baseball success has been the Columbia County Recreation Department.
Charlie Beale and his staff run one of the finest recreation departments in the Southeast. When it comes to baseball, Columbia County's Recreation Department might be the very best in the nation.
Just about every star high school player to come through the county in the past 20 years has cut his teeth in the recreation department. The baseball has been so good that state titles have become expected rather than applauded, and World Series crowns have piled up at a pace that would make the New York Yankees jealous.
For those of you who were worried that there may someday be a fall-off in baseball talent in the county, you can breathe easier for at least another six or seven years. Columbia County teams have been dominant this summer in the state of Georgia.
The county has swept the state championships in every age group from 11-14 years old. The 13- and 14-year-old team, coached by John Sandlin, will represent Georgia in the Dixie Boys World Series. Aiken's Citizens Park is the host site for the Dixie Boys World Series this year.
The Junior Dixie Boys (13-year-olds) also won the state tournament. Jamie Dukes' team will travel to Muscle Shoals, Ala., for their World Series. Their run is even more impressive when you consider that one of the finest 13-year-olds in Georgia (Jordan Rice) chose to play travel ball this summer and did not play for the recreation department.
The team still has a big-time star, though. Shortstop Jarrick Gibson is an incredible athlete who has prospect written all over him.
Finally, for the 11 and 12-year-olds playing in the Dixie O-Zone division, Columbia County made quite a statement in this year's state tournament. When the 16-team event dwindled down to four teams, three of them were Columbia County teams. The best-of-three championship series is being decided as I write this column.
The Columbia County North All-Stars lead the West All-Stars one game to none. The North team, Coached by Scott Klosinski, is 6-0 in the tournament and has outscored its opponents 69-5. Four of those runs were plated by the Columbia County West All-Stars in game one of the series (The North won 7-4).
Tyler Chadwick has been the star for the north team, although on a given day it seems five or six guys can carry the load for Klosinski's squad. The series winner will play in the O-Zone World Series in Troy, Ala
So if you see the local middle and high school coaches smiling from ear-to-ear, now you know why.
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