By Zack Huffman
The square in downtown McDonough was jam-packed with kids, coaches and fanfare as the ninth annual Roberto Clemente World Series kicked-off with a participant reception.
A variety of speakers, including McDonough mayor Billy Copeland all took their turn at the podium to express their excitement about the ensuing baseball tournament that would soon be underway at Richard Craig Park, while players from all of the United States got to know one another, each trading individual team pins in the hope of completing their sets.
The tournament, which features seven- and eight-year-old teams from California, New Mexico, Michigan, Connecticut and Puerto Rico will be held under the authority of the American Amateur Baseball Congress.
"We are proud of the accomplishments that have brought you here," said Copeland as he addressed the collected teams.
The McDonough OTC Scrappers will serve as host team, but they will not be the only local team to compete.
The Scrappers will be joined by the McDonough Elite Gamers Red, who made an appearance in last year's tournament.
Last year's tournament saw a local team take the crown. Although they did not earn the right to host, the McDonough Mudcats did battle their the competition to triumph over the team from Puerto Rico in the finals.
For most teams involved, the World Series provides an opportunity to enjoy competition from all over the country.
"We get to play against some of the better teams in the country and that's always exciting," said Kevin Strollo, head coach of the Cheshire Reds who are visiting from Connecticut.
Competition begins Thursday morning at Richard Craig Park with an Infield, Outfield and Homerun Derby which begins at 10:00 a.m.
The opening game will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will continue through Saturday.
The tournament is a double-elimination, so a final game, which would take place on Sunday, may or may not be necessary.