As the Greenville Braves gathered to take photos with their rings as the state of Mississippi’s 11-12-year-old little league baseball, they had to endure a graybeard sitting on the bleachers at Maude Bryan Park bragging about his playing days.
Those listening to him go on and on are probably going to just have to take his word for it. But for these youngsters, the proof is in the hardware that they brought back to Greenville on Sunday evening. “‘We lost in the championship game to Columbus 8-7,” said Braves head coach Deatrin Cooper. “We had a chance to win but came up a little short.”
After league play was canceled due to COVID-19 in Greenville, Cooper and assistant coach Mario Nichols found a highly competitive league made up of the state’s best little leaguers. The Braves were just a .500 team in league play during the regular season. But on Saturday and Sunday, they summoned a calm and resolve that pushed them to the brink of a state championship.
“We went 3-1 over the weekend in the tournament,” Cooper said. “The reason why they played so well in the tournament is because they finally started listening to what the coaches were saying. They started playing better ball mentally, which made all the difference.”
Players will have this impressive run cemented in their memories for a lifetime. They played exceptionally well against some of the state’s best talent. Moreover, when the calendar signified that it was baseball season, the coronavirus had other plans, leaving any baseball in doubt.
Through it all, perhaps the greatest obstacle that this traveling group of talented diamond dwellers overcame was just becoming a team.
“We traveled to play all of our games and it really helped the team form a bond with one another,” Cooper said. “We started putting the team together around Mother’s Day weekend. Many of the players go to different schools and barely knew each other a couple of months ago. Now that they’ve achieved this together, the memories and friendship will last a lifetime.”