EFFINGHAM, Ga. (WTOC) -From every pop of the glove to each crack of the bat, baseball is the sound of summer. As baseball season draws to a close and children prepare for school’s return, baseball players from across the region flocked to Effingham County for two days of All-Star play.
Bryce Harper made it his mission to make baseball fun again back in 2016 and others have followed suit, hoping to keep the next generation interested in America's past time. That wave was visible on Sunday afternoon in Effingham County as hundreds of ball players ages eight to 13 took the field for an All-Star game unlike any other in the area.
"I've been coaching for 20 years and I have a bunch of kids in college now,” said tournament director Clark Brockman. “I just saw- everything was getting- I kept hearing about burn out and I kept thinking, ‘how do kids burn out from something as fun as baseball?’ And it was just too serious. I mean, everybody was putting too much stress and taking the fun out of the games and you watch the new MLB now with Bryce Harper and Mookie Betts and guys and they're out there having fun."
Brockman took a page from local team Savannah Bananas, where the kids, the parents, and even the umpires have fun. They even gave dollars to the kids for making "money plays".
“When we're between the lines, it's as serious as you can get,” Brockman says. “When we get them outside the lines, I want to give them something fun to remember, for the families to share on Facebook and have a great time and memories to share with everyone."
They had teams representing the National League and American League, just like the MLB All-Star game and championship games were held at Josh Reddick Stadium. They gave out many of the same awards as the majors, and even held a homerun derby.
"We've got batting title champions, we've got RBI Champions, wins, strikeouts- everything they've got in the major leagues," Brockman said.
It was an opportunity for the players to take the field with the best of the best in the area, all while having fun. Many of them have been playing since January non-stop, chasing their professional dreams much like the namesake of the field once did.
"Anything that I can give back to these kids to give them a positive, it's going to help them when they get into that slump that's going to come, they're going to remember the positive things, so if I can help one kid playing when some would have given up, that's my goal,” said Brockman.
They estimate these tournaments bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic impact to Effingham County.
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