WARNER ROBINS -- Imagine taking a tuba player, flutist, saxophonist, violinist and cellist and trying to make them sound like the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in less than a month.
Or worse, having two violinists and trying to convince one to play the piccolo.
Mike Phillips faced a similar task midway through June.
He is the conductor who was appointed to take some of Bibb Countys finest 11- and 12-year-old softball players and turn them into a finely tuned machine.
The Western Little League All-Stars won the state championship a little more than a week ago. That, however, was merely a dress rehearsal. The team takes center stage Thursday as the curtain rises on the Little League Softball Southeastern Regional Tournament.
Georgia plays North Carolina at 7 p.m. at Little League Southeast Park.
Phillips, Georgias manager, inherited the top 10 all-star vote getters among the Western Leagues four teams June 15. He combined them with two at-large picks and began practicing a day later.
Blending that type of talent can be rather difficult. Timing is problematic. Individuals have played with certain players all season. Suddenly, they must adapt to different partners within the infield.
A lack of cohesiveness, however, wasnt the teams most daunting obstacle during that first practice June 16.
Most people dont realize that (Phillips) started out with a group of 12 talented girls and had to divide them up, Western league president Keith Radcliff said. On an all-star team, a coach may have four girls that all played shortstop for their teams all season. But you dont need four shortstops. Three of those girls may have to play outfield.
Thats the biggest adjustment for kids in these situations.
Radcliff said it is very difficult to put 12 outstanding players in a dugout and not have disagreements. Egos and selfishness can creep in and cause problems. He said that has not been an issue with this squad.
The coaches did a great job of sitting the girls down from day one and explaining to them that every position is important, Radcliff said. The kids decided early on that they would play wherever they were needed.
Phillips said he told his girls at the outset of practice that each one brings something unique to the table, and he was going to put them where he thought they would help most. Along the way, he discovered some pleasant surprises, such as Madison Powell.
I had a first baseman that has turned out to be my ace shortstop, Phillips said with a chuckle. Madison has great reaction time and great speed -- and she had never played shortstop before.
Phillips, who returned this season to manage the all-stars after taking two years off to coach a travel team, also points to his outfield as a landing spot for some players in a crowded infield.
The perception has always been that the outfield is where weaker players are put, Phillips said. That isnt the case with this team. I told our girls that the outfield is going to win or lose games for us. I put some of our best players in the outfield, and they all played infield on other teams in the regular season.
Phillips said he has a versatile squad with every girl capable of playing any position. Additionally, he said the unit has made great strides jelling during this six-week stretch.
After the loss to Toccoa (on July 15) where we made so many errors, I took the girls over to an adjacent field and told them, Individually, yall have more talent than any other team (in the state tournament). But yall have to start playing as a team. Phillips said. They had to understand that there are no do-overs. Its a one-shot deal.
The team emerged from the losers bracket to win the state title. Now, it is time for the girls to perform on the biggest platform they have ever played on.
This has been a whirlwind, Phillips said. Everything has just come together perfectly.