Play ball

Posted 1/13/2020

Tift County head coach Kyle Kirk, left, and assistant Colin Kirkland talk during during the

first day of baseball practice for GHSA member schools.


Play ball 

Warm temps greet baseball teams for first day of baseball practice 


Owen Manning grabbed his glove and trotted to third base for infield drills Monday afternoon at Tift County High School. The senior had waited a while for this day.

It seemed like it would never arrive.

"I'm excited," Manning said. "We've got a lot of young talent, so I'm excited to see what we're gong to do."

While Monday was the first official day Georgia High School Association schools could hold baseball practices, being back on the diamond wasn't perhaps the biggest story. In Tifton, just a little more than 60 miles north of the Florida border, near record-high temperatures greeted the Blue Devils.

In fact, the balmy 75 degrees seemed more suited for a midseason game in March rather than a January afternoon to open the season.

Some six hours north near the North Carolina border in Blue Ridge, Fannin County players enjoyed nice weather in the 60s and with the exception of a light rain shower at the start of practice, Fannin coach Travis Stone said his team couldn't have asked for any better weather.

"To get those types of temperatures in January in North Georgia, I figured we'd better get as much work done as possible," Stone said. "I was impressed with our guys' energy. They came out to work and we had a good day of practice."

While weekend thunderstorms drenched most of the state's baseball fields, many were still able to hold tryouts and practices. Wet conditions, however, remained in many areas and forced some to either indoor facilites or into gymnasiums. That wasn't the case at Tift County.

Assistant coach Taylor Barber sprinkled quick dry around the home plate and infield areas, and there was still the smell of fresh-cut grass. Head coach Kyle Kirk was anxious to show off the school's new scoreboard, its enclosed hitting facilities and several more field upgrades.

He said his players were more than ready for Monday afternoon.

"They're super-excited," he said. "They texted all weekend and asked me about this and that. We've got a good senior group and some good younger players. We're happy to get started."

GHSA schools have four weeks to practice before February 10, the first date in which a game can be played.