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Sumter County Parks and Rec, Americus Travelers and Dwight Harris Basketball Summer League highlight Sumter County’s Summer of Sports and Fun

AMERICUS – The 2021 high school and college sports seasons here in Sumter County and surrounding areas have officially concluded, but that doesn’t mean sports is over with as the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD), the Americus Travelers Baseball Team and the Dwight Harris Basketball Summer League are all getting underway for an exciting summer of sports and fun here in Sumter County.

According to SCPRD Director Tim Estes, there is an exciting summer of fun to be had for kids, and not just in sports. “We’ve got both public swimming pools that will be open; one on Barlow Street and one right behind our office here in Rucker St.,” Estes said. “They’ll be open Wednesday through Sunday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and that’s just for open swim. We also offer swim lessons. We partner with the Americus Blue Tide and offer swim lessons during the morning hours Monday through Thursday and that’s held out at the Deriso Swimming Pool on the campus of Georgia Southwestern. People register here and they (Americus Blue Tide) provide the service, so it’s a contract basis.”

This is the Rucker Street Public Pool, which is in Boone Park. It is one of two public pools that are operated by the SCPRD and they will be open every Wednesday through Sunday during the summer from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Photo by SCPRD

Estes went on to talk about the upcoming summer day camp that the SCPRD will be hosting its summer day camp from June 7 through July 23, but not during the week of July 4. This day camp program is for kids ages 5-12 and it’s six weeks long, going from Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and both breakfast and lunch will be provided. “They do aquatic activities, such as the splash pad,” Estes said. “They’ll play basketball and different games in the gym, arts and crafts, things that your typical summer day camp has that you’re use to growing up and we try to do it on a rotating basis so that every hour, the different groups rotate to a different activity. Dwight Harris (SCPRD Athletic Manager) manages that and does a great job. We have several high school and college kids that we employ in the summer to be camp counselors.”

According to Estes, registration for the SCPRD Summer Day Camp has been going on for the last four weeks and the final day to register will be on Friday, May 28.

In addition to the SCPRD Summer Day Camp, other fun things will be taking place here in Sumter County. Fans of all ages can cheer on the Sumter County All-Star baseball teams who will be competing in their various Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA) District 3 tournaments during the weekend of June 5 through June 7. Three Sumter County all-star teams will be competing in three District 3 tournaments. The 12U (12 and under) All-Stars will be competing in Moultrie, beginning on Monday, June 7, but the 10U All-Stars will be competing at the SCPRD baseball complex, beginning on Saturday, June 5. The 8U All-Stars will be competing in their district tournament in Thomasville and will also begin on Saturday, June 5.

Beginning Wednesday, June 23, the GRPA State Tournament for the 10U division will be held at the SCPRD baseball complex and, being that Sumter County will be hosting the tournament, the 10U Sumter County All-Stars will already be in the tournament regardless of how they perform in their district tournament. Should Sumter County win that district tournament, the second-place team in that tournament will also qualify for the state tournament. This GRPA 10U state tournament will go through Saturday, June 26. According to Estes, there will be eight to 10 teams in the tournament from around the state. “Most of those teams will be staying in hotels here and eating in our restaurants and it will be a good economic boost for our community,” Estes said. “Those games will be played throughout the day, starting at 10 a.m. in the morning those days and the state championship will be held that Saturday morning,” Estes said.

This is Schley County rising junior Owen Lamb, who is pitching for the Americus Travelers. The Travelers won the Perfect Game Tournament in Panama City Beach, FL last weekend and will be competing in a showcase at GSW this Saturday and Sunday, May 29-30.
Photo by Angel Lamb

The Americus Travelers All-Star Baseball Team has already embarked on an exciting summer of baseball and is fresh off winning the Perfect Game Tournament in Panama City Beach, FL last weekend. Estes, who is the Travelers’ head coach, has a team made up of high school players who will be going into their junior year this coming fall. Being that they are in high school, he has lined up a series of tournaments and showcases throughout the summer so that these players can be seen by college coaches. The Travelers’ next tournament will be the 2021 Memorial Day Weekend Team Camp this Saturday and Sunday, May 29-30 at Georgia Southwestern State University. According to Estes, it’s not really a tournament, but a showcase. It’s a chance for these players, along with the players of three other teams, to get exposure. They will be playing in front of college coaches, such as GSW Head Coach Josh McDonald, as well as coaches from Andrew College and Albany State. The coaches from Middle Georgia State and ABAC have also been invited.

The Travelers will play two games on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. There are a total of four teams participating in this showcase, and while there won’t be a champion crowned per se, the top two teams and the bottom two teams will play each other in “match-up games” at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 30. This is the only time during the summer that the Travelers will be playing in Americus.

“It really helps Coach McDonald and his staff out because he’ll be able to be right in his own back yard and see four teams from this region,” Estes said. “It will be the Travelers, along with a team from Dothan, AL, one team out of Dublin and another team out of Locust Grove, GA, so you’re talking about some of the top 16-year-old talent in this 100-mile region.” The Travelers will continue play throughout the summer, participating in tournaments in Flowery Branch, GA, Montgomery, AL and Gulf Shores, AL.

There will also be some exciting basketball played during the summer months here in Sumter County, as the Dwight Harris Basketball Summer League (DHBSL) will be starting its eighth season. This year would have been the league’s ninth year in existence, but it was canceled last summer due to the pandemic. The DHBSL is a summer recreational basketball league for boys and girls ages 7-17 and the games will be played every day, Monday through Saturday, at the Ninth Grade Academy, beginning on Tuesday, June 1 at 5 p.m. There will be four games played every day, Monday through Saturday, through June and July, with the playoffs and championship games to be played in late July. The first of the four games on Saturdays will begin at 10 a.m.

This is Americus-Sumter point guard Cameron Evans, who will be a junior this coming fall. This picture shows Evans competing two years ago in the Dwight Harris Basketball Summer League. After a summer of absence due to the pandemic a year ago, the DHBSL is back this summer.
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According to Harris and official police documents from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, since the league’s inception in 2011, youth crime during the summer months has dropped significantly and that is due in part to having this basketball league for the boys in the community. “I have police documentation from then Col. Eric Bryant (now Sheriff Eric Bryant) stating that during this basketball league, crime goes down tremendously,” Harris said.

This summer, the league will expand with two more divisions. For the first time, there will be a girls’ league for girls ages 7-17 and there will be a division for young men ages 18-25 so that they will have something positive to do during the summer and not be on the streets. A year ago during the pandemic, the SCPRD started a basketball league for men ages 18-25 during July and August of 2020 and, according to Harris, it went extremely well. According to Harris, the DHBSL is part of the Dwight Harris Boys Club, which he started in 2009 for the purpose of teaching young boys in the community how to become men.

Many of these young athletes who participated in the SCPRD sports program and the DHBSL have gone on to win state championships at both the GRPA and high school levels and have gone on to play at the collegiate level as well.

One thing must be said, however. Neither the Americus Travelers nor the DHBSL is tied in with Sumter County Parks and Recreation. All three things are separate entities unto themselves, but all three will provide a lot of fun and excitement this summer for the citizens of Americus and Sumter County.