Photos by Derrick Mahone
Members of the North Henry Bison shake hands with Team MVP 6U of Miami after their 12-2 loss in the opening round of the USSSA Junior World Series game.
Randy Jones was busy.
When the tournament director for the USSSA Junior World Series wasn't on his cellphone, he was punching away at his laptop.
He was able to squeeze in a little time to roam around the fields at J.P. Moseley Park Wednesday to talk to coaches and fans in the area for the five-day tournament.
"I'm always pumped about this time of year," said Jones, who has served in his current position the last seven seasons.
It doesn't matter that his own sons have long passed the youth baseball age. Jones, a 31-year Delta employee, said he wouldn't know what to do with his spring or summer if he wasn't involved in this grassroots baseball organization.
He smiled constantly as he walked the park checking out the games.
"I love this age group," Jones said about the six-and-under coach-pitch group. "The coaches and parents are so involved."
Jones coached his sons before moving into an administrative position in the organization. He, alone with others, were instrumental in bringing the Junior World Series to Henry County seven years ago.
It seems like a perfect marriage with community and political leaders involved.
"The true testament is we get teams from the same area each year wanting to come back," Jones said. "This community is well-respected and we get support from our local government. We have people wanting to support this."
He said it takes anywhere from 25-30 volunteers to make the tournament work. There is no shortage of people in the area wanting to see it succeed.
In fact, the tournament is thriving.
This year, the tournament will feature four and five-year-olds for the first time. Another first is that Saturday and Sunday's games, including the championships, will be broadcast live via the Internet.
Jones said that USSSA TV will broadcast the games.
The growth can also be seen by how far teams will travel to participate in the tournament, which also has games at Heritage Park in McDonough. In the eight-and-under division, there are teams from Puerto Rico, North Carolina, central Florida and Miami. The six-and-under group boost teams from Florida and Texas.
"I don't know what I would do each year if it wasn't for this tournament," Jones said. "I would probably be bored."
He will not be as he manages both sites to make sure the tournament runs smoothly. Several of the people involved includes some of his former players.
Each day, the games will run from 9 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. at both locations.
"I love the adrenaline that is tournament creates," Jones said. "The people in this area are proud of this tournament. Nobody that works or attends complains."
Derrick Mahone covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.