Junior Dixie Boys have final practice before Series

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Junior Dixie Boys tournament team gathered for a team meal after its last practice before the World Series Thursday night.

Head coach Sam Kitchens said the final practice was a bittersweet time.

“Well, it kind of leaves with you with an empty feeling because you know you’re close to the whole season being over,” Kitchens said. “Within the next week, everything will be over. You don’t get much of a summer break before school for these kids. It’s all finishing up. Now, we’ve just got to go down to Enterprise and do the best we can.”

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John Johnson, one of the team’s players, said he thought the team could use more practice before Saturday.

“It feels OK,” Johnson said. “I think we could use a little bit more practice, but we’ll be ready. Everything can always be improved. I just think we could do more if we had more time.”

While Johnson may want more time, Kitchens said the team has had a good week of practice.

“Overall, we’ve done a good job considering the weather and the conditions,” Kitchens said. “We’ve been lucky enough to get a good practice in Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. We’re about as ready as we can be. We just have to go out and execute when the game starts.”

One aspect of the practices that has helped the team so far is the intensity and game-like atmosphere the coaches help put into every practice.

“We try to stress to them that they need to put effort into each practice,” Kitchens said. “If you don’t put effort in a practice, you can’t put it out in a game and know what’s going to happen. We tell them to dive for balls and try to make good plays just like you would in a game so that you’re used to doing it. They’ve responded really well to that and I’m happy about that.”

While intensity may be a part of the team’s mentality, pressure is something Kitchens said his players do not feel.

“These kids don’t know pressure,” Kitchens said. “They’ve been laughing and joking and having too much fun. I don’t think they’re under any pressure at all.”

While the players may not be under any noticeable pressure, there is still pressure associated with a World Series.

“Coaches and parents are the ones that are under pressure,” Kitchens said. “As coaches, we’re starting to think about lineups and pitching and things. We’re trying to figure out if we need to make changes to the batting order or the lineup from state. There’s just all kinds of things on our minds.”

Johnson, however, disagreed with his coach.

“I’m kind of nervous,” Johnson said.

“It’s real nerve-wracking. I’m ready for it to get here and I’ll just be trying to do my best.”

As far as a final decision on a lineup for Saturday, Kitchens said he has yet to choose his starting pitcher.

“We’ve tossed around three names,” Kitchens said.

“We’ve looked at the brackets to see how things might fall and tossed around pros and cons, but we don’t know yet.”