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Post 33 set to play ball

By Anthony Rhoads

They come from several different schools and during the spring, they compete against each other.

But now that summer is here, they are coming together for a common cause ? the Stockbridge American Legion Post 33 baseball team.

The 2003 version of the Post 33 team features players from five different high schools including Henry County, Union Grove, Stockbridge, Morrow and Bible Baptist.

"They know each other and they know me," head coach James Powell said. "It's a good fit and they fit right in. From day 1, they mix right in."

Powell said players like Morrow infielder Jamie Priester are typical of the kinds of guys who are on this year's team.

"Everybody on the team is out of the same mold," Powell said. "They're just hard-nosed and they love to play ball."

Most of the players are from Union Grove, a team that went to the second round of the Class AA state playoffs. Some key players from Union Grove include Clint Neville, Greg Brooks, D.J. Schmelz, Colt Lynn and Josh Moss.

Neville has already made on impact on the team as he toss a complete-game 4-3 victory Thursday over Covington. He also had a triple in the contest.

Henry County's Matt Brown has also emerged as key player. In game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader, he allowed just one hit en route to a 2-0 victory. Other key players from Henry County include Josh Cole and Mike King.

Post 33 also features pitcher Bobby Donahue from Stockbridge and Daniel Nutt and Craig Maddux from Bible Baptist Christian School.

In Thursday's 4-3 win over Covington, Nutt had a perfect day at the plate as he went 3-for-3.

In a practice game earlier, the team pounded the Salem High School team 19-3.

"Everybody was amazed," Powell said. "Salem has got a pretty good baseball team. If that game is any indication, we will put up some runs this year."

Even though Post 33 might not go for the long ball very much this year, they are expected to be effective at the plate as several of the players batted over .400 on their high school teams in the spring.

"We don't have the power we had in the past," Powell said. "We have some very good hitters on this ball club and we should hit the ball very well."

Post 33 will play in Region 3 this season with Conyers, Loganville, Alpharetta and Covington.

"Conyers and Loganville are always tough and us and Covington are usually about the same," Powell said. "(Conyers manager) Jack Murphy does a great job and they're always tough. It's a tough region."

When Post 33 first arrived on the scene in 2000, it wasn't greeted completely with open arms by some local high school coaches.

But one coach who has been encouraging the team has been Union Grove's Vic Gongola. For the past few seasons, Post 33 has played its home games at Union Grove.

"Coach G has been behind it," Powell said. "He realizes American Legion is better quality ball and he wants some of his younger guys to play for us during the summer. It helps to have their backing; Union Grove has been very helpful."

Assistant coaches for this year's team include Rick Jones and Ronnie Neville, who is the father of Clint and Chad, who is a Post 33 alumnus.

Two former players have come back to help coach the team this year including Justin Jones and David Powell, James Powell's son.

"The kids have taken to them and they love it," James Powell said. "They're only a few years older than the players and they can really relate to them."

Even though Post 33 has not been existence for very long, the team has made state each year is has been around.

Powell said one of the team's goals is to once again make it to state He not only said the team wants to be successful on the field but produce solid young men off the field.

"We hope to get scholarships for the players who haven't already signed to play college baseball," Powell said.

Post 33 gets back into action this week with a pair of games against Conyers Post 77.

On Tuesday, Post 33 travels to Conyers and Wednesday, Post 33 will play host to Conyers.