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Boys of Summer: Youth baseball attracts spectators to Sweetwater

For McDuffie County baseball fans, there are few places better this time of the year than Sweetwater Park.

On most nights, hundreds of players, parents, grandparents and others spend their evening gathered around a diamond in the dirt.

Last Friday night, the crowds cheered loudly for the players they were there to watch and they commended them by name when they made a nice defensive play or reached base on a hit.

"We try to offer both the players and their families a nice place to play baseball," according to Bob Howard, director of the Thomson-McDuffie Recreation and Leisure Services. "We want people to come out and have a good time as a family or as individuals."

Despite having a limited staff, fields are kept up as nicely at Sweetwater Park as possible, Howard said.

"We want our facilities to look nice at all times," he added. "We're fortunate that we receive a lot of compliments about our fields and that makes everybody on the staff feel good."

One of those complimenting the recreation staff for a job well done was Bob Smith, a retired education administrator within the McDuffie County School System.

"I think those on the recreation staff do an excellent job out here," Smith said. "It's always so nice and clean for the players and spectators."

Smith and his wife, Becky, were there watching one of their grandsons, Chase Smith, 7, play a baseball game in the 7-8 year old division. The Smith's son, Brad, serves as a volunteer coach for the team.

"We spend a lot of time out here at Sweetwater Park all during the year, because we have another grandson, Brian, 10, who plays in an older baseball league," Smith said. "It's a lot of fun watching them play. This is where they learn the fundamentals and about sportsmanship."

For Becky Craven, who works as a dispatcher at the McDuffie County 911 Center, the ballpark is a nice way to relax after a hectic day on the job.

"It's really relaxing coming to the ballpark," Craven said. "I love the competition of seeing the boys play each other. It's great for the kids. And it's a great outlet for me from my job."

Craven's grandson, Lee Portwood, 7, played in one of the games last Friday night.

Web posted on Thursday, June 05, 2008

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