By Brian Paglia
Funny, how a baseball team of 7- and 8-year-olds can head south with their families 780 miles and still feel close to home.
When they began their trip, they were hours away from the Great Lakes.
Now, they're hours away from the Gulf of Mexico.
But the JTB Tigers don't find McDonough, Ga., too distinct from their own small town of Auburn Hills, Mich.
Well, maybe the accents are different.
"Yeah, they're a bit different," Tigers coach Greg Nixon laughed.
Consider the populations of both McDonough (15,523) and Auburn Hills (19,146), according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
So maybe Auburn Hills is home to more prominent companies and sports organizations.
It's the world headquarters of Chrysler Corporation, ironic considering automobilie pioneer John Dodge came to the area in 1908 to find a spot for his country retreat.
It's also home to The Palace of Auburn Hills, where the NBA's Detroit Pistons have played basketball since 1988 and the WNBA's Detroit Shock since 1998.
But while Nixon and his team spent time in McDonough Square Wednesday night for the opening ceremony - listening to Mayor John Copeland wistfully read the history of railroads and hotels in the center of Henry County - he didn't feel too far from home.
"Auburn Hills isn't too different from here," Nixon said. "It's a small town, but we actually pull for our team from three other towns surrounding us."
And that's a team that Nixon says has faced much adversity and triumphed.
"The strength of our team is character," Nixon said, "to fight back, to battle back. Through adversity they've been able to build a strong bond together."