Last week I wrote about the relatively new baseball “travel ball” concept that has developed into a major avenue for today’s youth to improve their skills and to compete with and against other similarly talented players. In this column I will include some information about a couple of local travel teams as well as an out-of-town team that includes a couple of local players.
The Diamond Aces started as a 12 and under travel team in 2011 and was made up of primarily of Thomaston players. That team has evolved through the years into what was this year is a 16 and under group with players from Upson, Lamar, Spalding, Fayette, and Coweta counties. Of course, these youngsters have a goal of expanding their skills to a caliber that will give them an opportunity to compete at the high school and college levels.
This Diamond Elite Aces group has had a very successful 2015 season so far. They won the USSSA State Championship and placed 4th out of 24 teams in the Triple Crown Event. They still have a couple of major tournaments left on their schedule as they will compete in the 250-team Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association National Championship, as well as the Grand Slam World Series Tournament in Panama City, Florida.
In 2013 another Aces squad was started. This group, consisting primarily of Thomaston youth, just finished their season as a 10 and under team. Their record was 21-14 and they won the Championship at the USSSA NIT Arbor Day Classic.
The Elite Aces squad is coached by John Maguire, Christopher Long, and Matt Crews. They play out of a new baseball facility opened recently in Thomaston called Diamond Elite Baseball and Softball, LLC. The facility has four hitting lanes and two pitching lanes. Maguire owns this complex and looks to have future expansion with plans to include a physical training area.
The Foundation A’s are a travel ball team that plays mainly out of Peachtree City, although the Foundation Academy also has facilities in Stockbridge and Lovejoy. Two local youth, Ty Rechtorovic and Turner Maddox, are members of this A’s team. Earlier in the year, these boys were members of the Upson-Lee Middle School team.
The A’s recently won the 13 and under State Championship and have won four of the last five tournaments that they have participated in, including one played in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Most of the other A’s players reside in Pike and Spalding counties.
Rechtorovic is mainly a first baseman, but also does some catching and pitching for the A’s. Maddox is the A’s shortstop and does some pitching as well. Both are left-handed hitters and major contributors to the A’s success.
Of course, Ty is my grandson, and because of that I have seen the A’s play a number of times. They have an excellent team and seem to enjoy playing together. I’m really proud of Ty and the improvement he has shown over the past few years. He loves the game of baseball and works tirelessly to get better. Hopefully his work ethic and the talent he has will translate into future success.
The coaching at the Foundation facility is of the highest quality. Two former major leaguers, catcher Johnny Estrada and pitcher John Rocker, are members of their instructional staff. Their presence certainly heightens the interest level of the youngsters.
So, yeah, travel ball is relevant. It has grown significantly over the past few years and now seems to have replaced recreation baseball as the major method of teaching youngsters the game. Whatever it takes to teach kids the great game of baseball is good for our young people. Play ball!
Jim Fowler is a sports columnist and retired teacher and coach who worked in the local school system for many years. He is a founding board member of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame and is also the statistician for the Upson Lee football team, and has written a book about the history of football at R. E. Lee High School.