COVINGTON - The sounds of baseball will once again be originating from City Pond Park as the Dixie Youth Baseball Major Georgia State Tournament starts today.
The 16-team tournament will begin with three games at 10 a.m., followed by three at noon and a pair at 2 p.m. before opening ceremonies take place at 5 p.m.
The tournament picnic will follow the opening ceremonies at the football field.
Of the 16 teams, Newton County will have three teams in the tournament. The Newton County American team will play its first game at 10 a.m. against Lee County National on Field No. 4. Also playing at 10 a.m. on Field No. 2 is the Newton County Southern team. It will go up against Wrens.
The Newton County National team will play on Field No. 2 against Albany American at noon.
In a 16-team tournament, there is usually a favorite. But this year, according to Newton County Recreation Department athletic supervisor Ricky Vaughn, every team has a chance to represent Georgia in the Dixie Youth World Series in Laurel, Miss.
"It's a competitive 11- and 12-year-old tournament. It's real good baseball. It's really balanced for the most part," he said. "Going in you can't say one team is going to win this tournament. To me, that's a good tournament, where everybody has a chance."
The other teams playing are Buford, Troup County National, Augusta West, Duluth, Taylor County, Thomaston, Winder, Dalton, Albany Dixie and Peachtree Ridge.
Fifteen teams, including the Newton County National and Southern teams, made themselves eligible to play in the state tournament by winning at the qualifying tournaments, while the Newton County American team got its slot by being the host team.
"Normally, we take our strongest team and let them host. But this year there's really not a difference between the three, they're real close," Vaughn said. "Most of these kids have been in this position before, so it's nothing new for them."
The 16 teams will be broken down into two, eight-team brackets with the winner of each bracket playing for the state championship in a best-of-three series the following Friday and Saturday.
"Last year, we got beat in the championship game. We have one kid, Deanthony Bell, returning from that team," Vaughn said.
The daily tickets are $5 for anyone 6 years old and older. Under six is free. A tournament pass is $25.
While there is no clear cut front-runner, Vaughn said the home team and those that live close by always have a slight edge over those forced to spend the night away from home for long periods of time.
"To me, you always have an advantage over kids that have to stay here. If you stay the whole week, this will be a weeklong tournament for the champion, it can be a grind staying in a hotel for a week with 12 kids," he said. "Normally, if it's less then an hour drive, you tend to go back and forth. An hour and a half to two hours, they'll normally stay."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If You Go
· What: Dixie Youth Baseball Major Georgia State Tournament
· Where: City Pond Park, Covington
Newton County American vs. Lee County National, 10 a.m.
Newton County Southern vs. Wrens, 10 a.m.
Newton County National vs. Albany American, Noon