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Americus Travelers Baseball Team set to begin its 25th summer season

From Staff Reports

AMERICUS – The 2021 edition of the Americus Travelers Baseball Club is set to begin their summer season. The 2020 campaign couldn’t have ended any sweeter as the Travelers claimed their second National Championship in program history by winning the Top Gun Summer Nationals in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Head Coach Tim Estes returns everyone from that 2020 championship squad and has added one more player and a new pitching coach for 2021. The eleven players on the team represent six different area high schools including: Southland Academy, Schley County, Lee County, Deerfield-Windsor, Crisp County and Fitzgerald. While the core of this group have been together since 2018, they have added Southland Academy utility player Henry Johnson to the roster, as well as Pitching Coach Aaron Ginn to the staff.  The returning players include Southland Academy’s Chase Ledger, who will anchor the teams pitching staff and has established himself as a solid catcher as well. Schley County’s Owen Lamb is a tall left-handed pitcher and first baseman. Lamb had a breakout season for the Wildcats, both on the mound and at the plate, and has developed well during each summer with the Travelers. Lee County catcher Gavin Lacey returns after a stellar sophomore season behind the plate for the Trojans. He is joined by teammates Caden King; a right-handed pitcher/second baseman. Tripp Thomas, who is an outfielder, shortstop and right-handed pitcher, saw significant playing time for Lee County varsity. He will be joined by his LC teammate, outfielder/first baseman Peyton Tompkins.

Deerfield Windsor is represented by shortstop / RHP Thomas Ray. Ray is masterful with the glove and has exceptional footwork around the bag in the middle infield. He is also blessed with excellent speed and is expected to anchor the leadoff spot for the Travelers. Thomas “Chewy” Willis has been a staple in centerfield for the Travelers since day one and provides some power in the middle of line-up, as well as outstanding arm strength. In addition, he will be counted on to provide some relief innings on the mound. Crisp County’s Dylan Davis has matured physically and has always provided a hot bat for the Travelers. He will see time in the outfield as well. Fitzgerald’s Landon Kight is a left-handed pitcher/first baseman who really came on strong on the mound in 2020. He also led the Travelers at the plate with a .451 batting average.

“The first thing that sticks out to me about this team is their chemistry” Estes said. “They love each other and enjoy being together and they’ve got each other’s backs. That goes a long, long way on the baseball field. They’re also very talented and most of them provide more than one role. It’s rare to have a small group like this who can get it all done between them but they’ve proven that they can do just that”.

A roster with only eleven players at the elite levels of travel baseball is rare, especially considering the tournament schedule that the Travelers will face this summer. The team will begin the 2021 season this coming weekend, May 21-23 at the Perfect Game Road to the Nationals Tournament in Panama City Beach, FL.

The following weekend, May 29 – 30, the Travelers will be at home for the Georgia Southwestern State University Memorial Day Weekend Showcase. Four teams (including the Americus Travelers) will play a doubleheader on Saturday and a doubleheader on Sunday in front of the coaching staff of GSW and other area colleges. This will give the local fans an opportunity to watch the 2021 squad without having to travel very far. On June 4 – 6, the team will venture over to Montgomery, AL for the 2D Alabama Opener. This is another college showcase that will be held at three colleges; Faulkner University, Auburn-Montgomery and Alabama State University. The team will take a well-deserved break for a couple of weeks before resuming their schedule on June 18 – 20 at the Perfect Game Central Georgia Invitational Showcase. This event will feature many high level teams competing at Mercer University, Middle Georgia College and Georgia College and State University. On June 25 – 27, the team will migrate North to Flowery Branch for the Perfect Game Northeast Georgia Invitational. They will complete the 2021 summer season in Gulf Shores Alabama on July 7 – 10 at the Perfect Game World Series.  “This is without a doubt the toughest schedule we’ve ever put together. Our kids will see some of the top competition and top pitching in their age division in the country,” Estes said. “Now that they are 16 years old, we need to showcase their talents and get them in front of as many college guys as possible. I truly believe that several of them will get the opportunity to play at the college level.”

Jarrod Wall returns to the staff as an assistant coach for his fourth season. “Jarrod played for the Travelers from age 13 – age 17 and has now been coaching for four seasons. He knows our system and how we operate. He does a tremendous job of keeping our statistical information and working with guys in the cage,” Estes said.

As mentioned previously, former Southern Mississippi and Albany State Right Hander Aaron Ginn joins the staff as the pitching coach. “Aaron brings a whole new element to our staff. He’s been at the level these guys are trying to reach. He is very knowledgeable when it comes to mechanics and I feel like you’ll see our pitchers take a giant leap forward because of what Aaron brings to the team,” Estes said. In addition, Reid Ragsdale, a former Travelers player and coach will continue to work part-time with the team this summer. Ragsdale is the left fielder for the GSW Hurricanes and will be with the team as much as possible this summer. “We’re glad that Reid can be with us most of the time.” Estes said. “We understand that he has other commitments as well at this point in his career and life and can’t be with us full-time. He is a tremendous young teacher of the game and relates well with the players. They know that he too is a college athlete and they respect him for that.”

This will be the 25th season of Americus Travelers Baseball.  In a time and era when travel baseball has become big business and a multi-million dollar industry, Estes has remained true to their roots and this is still a very regional program. “We don’t use pick-up or part-time players,” He said. “It’s our job to develop this local talent and hopefully it helps their high schools and gets them a chance to play on the college level if that’s what they have a desire to do in the future”.  There aren’t many programs with an alumni base, webmaster and fan following like the Travelers. On any given game day, well over 100 fans are on site at Travelers games, as well as hundreds of others who follow via Gamechanger and the team’s website: www.americustravelers.com  Webmaster Kenny “Moose” Harrill, who Estes describes as “our biggest fan” has provided, free of charge, a website and link to Gamechanger for fans to keep up with every pitch of the season. This really is a village of people who support our program and these young men. We have an amazing baseball family with parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. We also have over 200 Travelers alumni who keep up with us and attend our games when we’re in their area. We are extremely thankful for everyone who plays a part in this program.