The Thomson Stars have gone from being like the team in the famous movie, Bad News Bears, to a respected championship-quality team.
The team is a traveling baseball team, based out of Thomson and comprised of youngsters ages 8 and under who hail from Thomson, Warrenton and Grovetown. The Thomson Stars compete in the United States Speciality Sports Association (USSSA) and play a lot of their tournaments in Aiken, S.C.
Coaches remember when the players couldn't catch the ball, field a grounder or hit the baseball.
"When we first started practicing, some of them couldn't throw the ball past their own feet," lamented Assistant Coach Diamond Kendrick, whose little brother, Adonia, 8, plays on the team. "Out of the 12 players on the team, only five of them had ever played a little baseball."
The Thomson Stars got off to a dismal 1-13 record. One of their worst defeats was by a score of 35-2.
"That was pretty bad," remarked Coach Malcolm Frails, who lives in Dearing. "We weren't playing well at all back then."
Another coach, Torry Martin, who lives in Grovetown, said, "We couldn't seem to do anything right when we first started."
The coaching staff said despite the team's terrible record, they continued to coach the players.
"We didn't give up on them," said Coach Frails. "We knew that if we continued to be patient with them that they would get better by and by."
Coach Martin agreed.
"We kept teaching them about the fundamentals of the game," added Coach Martin, who grew up playing basbeall with Coach Frails. "And they gradually started getting it."
The team has now won their last four games in a row, including their first championship. They traveled to Aiken's Citizens Park on May 30 and 31 where they captured the Dixie Diamond Classic, defeating the Masters City Mud Puppies 17-6 in the championship game.
In that tournament, the Thomson Stars clobbered six homeruns. Those getting the big hits for the local traveling baseball team included: Malik Frails, Trey Martin, Adonia Kendrick, A.J. Grant, Trabias Jones and Jamon Fanning.
Each of them received homerun T-shirts.
Other players on the team include: Xzavier Smith, Marquavious Butler, Dontaveous "Red" Bell, Ordra'cus McGahee and Quinterious Bailey.
"We've really started turning things around," said Coach Frails. "We, as coaches, feel that they just started believing in themselves. And believing in yourself can take you a long ways. Seventy-five percent of this game is mental anyway, I believe."
Coach Martin said the success of the Thomson Stars of late "feels good" and that he'd like nothing better than to see it continue for the remainder of the season. "It would be great if we didn't lose another game."
While playing in the Dixie Diamond Classic, Coach Martin said the faces of team players changed when they began making plays, hitting and winning games.
"You could see their confidence levels going way up," he added. "I just hope it continues."
Prior to having won the recent tournament, the Thomson Stars had beaten only one other team, the Bulls from Simpsonville, S.C. by a slim score of 7-6.
1) all stars -- cutline: Members of the Thomson Stars recently won their first baseball tournament of the season after getting off to a dismal 1-13 start.