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Troy starts Dixie Youth travel team to close out summer

Sports Editor

Troy’s National and American Dixie Youth teams weren’t able to make it out of district, but some may end up playing in a World Series after all.

Coach Freddie Teal, along with assistants Ronald Wade and Ken Vaughan, have assembled a traveling team to play in this weekend’s Simply the Best 12 and under tournament in Dothan. The top two finalists will advance to play in Simply the Best’s World Series, which will be held in early August at Panama City, Fla.

Teal said he picked this team during regular season league play and all of the players, with the exception of one, ended up playing tournament team baseball this summer. Both the Troy Nationals and Americans advanced to Greenville for the district tournament.

"It’s a way for them to stay together," Teal said. "They enjoy it. We’ve got a good group of kids, six of them from one team and five from the other. A lot of these kids have never been able to play together because they’ve been in two different leagues."

Teal is from Troy but lived in Tennessee before moving back home. He said up there it was taken for granted that once Dixie baseball was over, all of the players would move on to play with a traveling team.

"We’d play around Nashville and the local area," he said.

Back in Troy, Teal approached some of the parents, who had players his son William’s age, about starting a traveling team.

"These kids right here, at some point in time, are going to be in the same grade or year behind each other," he said. "We thought it would be a good idea to get them started playing at an early age. This group, especially, will be going to high school at the same time."

The quality of talent on the Troy team is so high that a man sought out the players last week in Greenville, hoping to recruit some of the Nationals and Americans to play for Dothan.

Teal said he didn’t know if this would be a one-year thing or not.

"I’m not making any guarantees," he said. "I told them let’s just see how it works out and if everybody has a good time. If it’s worth it we’ll try and do it again next year."

However, Teal said the traveling team will not replace Dixie Youth baseball.

"We’re not taking anything away from Dixie Youth," he said. "That’s one thing I said I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t pull anything from that and wouldn’t let it interfere with Dixie Youth. Some towns have gotten out of Dixie Youth baseball and are doing this full time, but that’s not what my intentions are and not what I’m going to do. This is just another way for the kids to continue to play baseball."

The tournament in Dothan will feature eight teams, including Troy. The top two are then invited to play in the World Series, where Teal expects to see teams from all over South Alabama, Georgia and North Florida.

"I talked to a coach from Andalusia and he said he’d played a team from Tallahassee (Fla.)," Teal said. "They’d played in eight states and in over 80 baseball games."

Teal said should the Troy team not advance to the World Series, they still plan on making the trip to Panama City to take part in the annual Summer’s End Baseball Classic. School starts on Aug. 5, but Teal said the tournament will be played on the weekend.

"I’ve already had some of them ask me if I was going to check them out of school," he joked.