WARNER ROBINS -- Thanks to a break in his work schedule, Kris Mckleroy of Warner Robins finally got a chance to see what all the hubbub was about. And he wasnt about to miss a thing.
Mckleroy and his daughters Savannah and Madison arrived early to Little League Southeast Park -- just less than two hours before the scheduled first pitch -- and grabbed a seat in the front row for Fridays Little League Baseball Southeastern Regional Tournament final between Georgia and Tennessee.
They were some of the earliest arrivals for the game. A gathering crowd of about 5,000 was on hand when Tennessees Brock Myers delivered the first pitch to Travis Adams of Georgia. A few of Madison Mckleroys classmates at Mossy Creek Middle School play for Georgia, but the familys rooting interest was more basic.
Were out to support the local team, Kris Mckleroy said. And we wanted to see the park. Weve never been before, even though we live about a stones throw away.
By contrast, Austin Smith of Byron is a regular attendee at the tournament. Smith, 13, and his grandfather Sam Morgan use the event as bonding time. Its much better live than on television, they said.
Its different. You see all the action, Smith said. We do this every year.
Smith and Morgan also arrived early and grabbed a seat on the left-field side. The right-field half of the stands had been reserved for fans from Tennessee.
Goodlettsville Little League president John Richardson went to the International City by way of charter bus along with more than 50 or so of Goodlettsvilles finest. They hoped to take away a little of Warner Robins hometown advantage.
Susan Marlin, whose son Jerrod plays for Tennessee, said she and her husband, Jerry, passed on a business trip to Las Vegas. Susan Marlin said everyone with the company was very understanding. She said theyd not yet heard if there was a Las Vegas line on the game, but she knew her husbands co-workers would be watching.
Susan Marlin has been back and forth between Warner Robins and Goodlettsville a few times during the past week. Brandee Lyle, whose son Ryan also plays for Tennessee, has been in Warner Robins throughout.
Its a friendly town, Brandee Lyle said, but while we thought it would be just crazy about baseball, we were talking to a waitress at a restaurant, and she had no idea there was a tournament.
The Mckleroys knew about the tournament; they just hadnt been able to get to it yet. The family is a big supporter of Warner Robins American Little League. In fact, Savannah played outfield and third base for the 9-10 league champion Lady Bears softball team.
Were hoping in a couple years (Savannah will) be playing here, Kris Mckleroy said.
Im hoping to go to the World Series, his daughter added.