By Zack Huffman
Everyone likes a hometown hero, but if the McDonough Elite Gamers Red have any hope of achieving that status, they'll have to go through some of the top competition from around the United Stated and Puerto Rico.
The Elite Gamers will make their return to the AABC Roberto Clemente World Series Thursday, but their trip did not come easy.
Because McDonough has the honor of hosting the tournament, whichever team wins the local league tournament automatically earns the opportunity to host the World Series, bypassing the state and region tournaments.
The McDonough OTC Scrappers won the right to host, meaning the Elite Gamers had more work to do if they were going to be able to compete in the tournament that takes place in their back yard.
The Elite Gamers battled into the finals of the Southeast Regional Tournament where they faced the Gresham Park Longhorns. Although they were unable to dispatch of their foes from Decatur, the Elite Gamers did earn a bid in the World Series with a second-place finish.
"We've faced the Longhorns and the Scrappers several times throughout the year," said Elite Gamers head coach Brian Little. "They're both great competitors."
the Longhorns and Scrappers are not the only team in the tournament the Elite Gamers have faced before.
Both the Elite Gamers and the Farmington Fuel, from New Mexico, competed in the World Series last year.
"I met the coach last year, he's a great guy and I'm sure they have a great team as well," said Little.
Before Little can begin to worry about facing teams that have beaten them already this year, his team will have to get past the Southern California Diablos, who traveled 2,187 miles to compete in the World Series.
"They didn't come here for a hair cut, they came here to play baseball," said Little.
No matter what happens, Little is happy for his squad can be a part of the tournament.
"It's been a long season. We started practicing back in December. This is why we worked so hard," he said. "All of these teams are great. They're here for a reason. they've worked just as hard as we have."
Last year, it was the McDonough Mudcats who won the tournament.
Naturally, Little is rooting for his own team, but either way, he's looking for some hometown heroes to keep the AABC championship trophy in McDonough.
"I love to see any of the McDonough teams win," he said. "Obviously, I would love for my team to win, but if we're not able to pull it out, I'd like to see the Scrappers pull it out."