WARNER ROBINS -- The Lassiter family came here from Bleckley County last year to watch the Little League Southeastern Regional Tournament, never dreaming that in less than a year, they would be playing baseball in the same town.
Now the athletic director at Houston County High School, Von Lassiter has two of his three sons enrolled in Warner Robins American Little League.
One of those is Zach Lassiter, who is playing for the former Southeast champions coach, Buddy Deal, on the major league Rays.
I heard a lot (about Deal) at school, said Zach, who is a sixth-grader at Mossy Creek Middle School.
He didnt realize it was the same coach whom he had watched on television.
Zachs a pretty good ball player, said Deal who likened him to some of his former All-Star players.
Hes a good kid from a good family, he said.
Zach has pitched in travel ball as well as for the Bleckley County Recreation Department. He said getting used to the different distance from the mound to the plate was challenging, going from 50 feet to 46 feet.
Although Von Lassiter has not coached his son in baseball, he is grateful for the coaches who do. The commitment from the coaches to attend practices, sometimes four days a week, is remarkable, he said.
Ive been really impressed with the level of competition, he said.
One of Zachs fondest memories is that of his first home run about two years ago.
His father remembers a different moment.
Zach was playing in the outfield a few years ago when he made a diving catch. The umpire gave Zach the ball after the game and told his father he had never seen a child that young make a catch like that.
The 11-year-old mostly plays first base at WRALL when he isnt pitching.
Zachs mother, Kelli Lassiter, also has noticed a change between the leagues.
Its very busy, she said, noting there are many more practices.
Not only is the family busy with Zachs practices, but Zane, 6, plays C-ball. The youngest Zayden, 4, will wait until next year to get started.
Its pretty serious business, Von Lassiter said.