Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

February 27, 2013

Americus-Sumter to celebrate 100 year baseball anniversary this weekend

AMERICUS — As the Americus-Sumter Panthers roll through their 2013 baseball season, it is hard not to be reminded of what a special season this is. Not only is 2013 so special because of the seven talented seniors that will be playing in their final seasons as Panthers, but also because they are representing a baseball program that is competing in it’s astonishing 100th season of competition.

Prior to Friday night’s match-up with 5:30 p.m. match-up with the Rutland Hurricanes, Americus-Sumter will hold a pre-game ceremony at 5 p.m. to recognize members of past Americus High School, Sumter County High School, and Americus-Sumter High school teams. The ceremony, called ‘Legends Night’ will recognize all past players in attendance and highlight some their awards and accomplishments on the field.

One of the most special moments of the night will come when Americus High School legend Melvin Kinslow throws out the first pitch of the game. As a player, Kinslow helped lead Americus High School to two state championships on the diamond. Kinslow further grew his legend at Americus when he took over the baseball program as the head coach, and led the team to their last five state championships. Kinslow is just one of many legends that current head coach Todd Vickery hopes will make their homecoming on Legends Night. All former players, not matter how recent or old, are invited to attend and partake in this wonderful celebration.

As for the current team of Panthers, the centennial team, Vickery made sure that his players know the importance and the magnitude of the 2013 season. “I told them that we have a chance to be part of something really special,” Vickery said. “It is also a big deal for me. I coached at Sumter and I was an assistant here before becoming the head coach. I haven’t been around that long, but I am a part of it and that it special.”

One huge piece of the history of the Americus baseball program is their legendary Thomas Bell Stadium. Bell Stadium is a ballpark rich in history, including once being the home for the infamous ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson. “Playing in Bell Stadium is a big deal for us,” said Vickery. “How many high school kids get to play their home games at a place like Bell?”

For Vickery, preserving and observing the past is one of the most important tasks that a legendary program like Americus-Sumter can accomplish. “I am a baseball guy, so we spend as much of our energy on our past as we do our future,” he said. “We want to get as many alumni back and keep some continuity in the program.”

“I am thankful to Kellette Wade for finding the picture of our 1913 team and allowing Chris Barr to scan it, and I am thankful to Chris for finding all of the names of the guys in that picture. The fact that that picture still exists is amazing, and there are some very historic names in there like Rees and Rylander that had huge influences on this town.,” said Vickery.

Vickery said that his biggest goal to accomplish before his time is through at Americus-Sumter is to play in front of a packed house at Bell Stadium. “My ultimate goal is to have a game there with a full house,” he said. “I can’t think of anything that would be more appropriate for Bell Stadium and the program.”

 

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