The red carpet was rolled out Thursday evening at Patriot Hall for Sumter’s newly crowned World Series Champions.
A team of 13-year-old All-Stars from Sumter won the Dixie Junior Boys World Series Baseball Tournament in Aiken on Aug. 7, 2019, after besting Louisiana 8-2.
Sumter County Recreation & Parks Athletic Director Ryan Graham told the crowd on Thursday he appreciated the team of All-Stars and his personal experience of watching them compete at the highest level.
He also thanked their parents for their “love and support” for the Recreation Department as the team was “a joy to watch.”
Graham then introduced the team: Chase Denton, Jones Deschamps, Bryson Hodge, Dylan Jones, Clark Kinney, Matthew Lauzon, Hayden Mims, Cecil Mitchum, Ben Reynolds, Chandler Richardson, Sean Rouse, Jess Schwedler and Blake VanPatten.
The coaches were Byron Kinney, Russ VanPatten and Jay Jones.
After the playing of the National Anthem, Sumter County Recreation & Parks Department Director Phil Parnell said as a former coach and Dixie League official with nearly 30 years of experience, winning a World Series “is something that is very, very hard to do.”
“It takes a special group of players, a special group of coaches, and above all else, a special group of parents all pulling the same direction,” he said. “I take my hat off to this group and everyone who supported them. It’s a big accomplishment and it’s something they will never forget – they’ll take it with them the rest of their life.”
Sumter County Councilman Charles Edens congratulated the team on behalf of County Council “and all the citizens of Sumter County.”
“We are so proud of y’all,” he said. “Not only are we proud that you have won this World Series, but we’re proud of you representing us as Sumter County in the fashion that you did.”
Edens thanked the parents and coaches for their work, noting it was not an easy accomplishment.
“You will never forget this,” he said.
Coach Byron Kinney said at the beginning of the year, each player was being coached at either Sumter High School, Lakewood High School, Wilson Hall or Laurence Manning Academy.
“And that contributed greatly to the success of this team,” he said.
They played from January until April, then signed up for Rec ball. Six teams were picked for the 13 and 14-year-old league, he said, and ended the regular season in June. Then the six coaches got together and selected the All Star Team, and practiced from mid-June until July 19, at which point the team traveled to the Lowcountry for the state tournament in Bluffton.
“At the state tournament we won seven games in six days, and they told us then we were not Sumter anymore, we were (representing) South Carolina, and we were going to the World Series,” he said. “So we practiced for another week. We had the support of the whole community – many people calling us up, wanting to give us financial support and we appreciate that from everyone who did that.”
In Aiken, the Sumter boys won six games in five days, he said. And although the team represented the entire state, Kinney said they truly represent Sumter.
“We represent Sumter and all of you,” he said, as the team took off South Carolina jerseys to reveal Sumter jerseys underneath.
Coach Jay Jones said it was great support at home, along with “great parents and great kids.”
When Jones was 13-years-old, he said he watched Coach Kinney lead the Sumter High School basketball team to a state championship.
“There’s a reason he wins the stuff he does,” Jones said. “He leaves no stone unturned and it’s a joy to be out here with him and Coach VanPatten.”
Coach Russ VanPatten said as a coach, it’s also an experience he’ll never forget.
“For the last month and a half, two months, I’ve been assaulted by all kinds of sights and smells and sounds,” he said. “I wouldn’t change one single minute of it because I got to see these guys put in a tremendous amount of hard work to bond together and have an experience they would never forget.”
Councilman Edens and Graham then presented the players and coaches with gifts on behalf of the County and County Council. Lemonade and cake were then served to the crowd of well-wishers.