PERRY -- Getting there is half the fun.
So its no surprise to see smiles on the faces of the Dixie Youth softball 15U Georgia champions as they bus tables and greet customers at a local fast-food restaurant. The trip to Alexandria, La., wont come cheap. There are hotel rooms to book and gas tanks to fill. So for the time being, fundraising takes precedence over practice.
Its all good, however. Players and coaches still work toward a common goal. Thats what really matters.
We understand that to win you have to be a team, centerfielder Lizzi Neal said. Youre not going to go anywhere in life if you cant work with other people.
The team, comprising all-stars from the Perry Youth League at Oklahatchee Park, swept the competition at the Dixie state tournament in Milledgeville earlier in the month. The all stars won three games by a combined score of 61-6, defeating a team from Crawford County in the final.
We knew we had a good chance to win because there were only three teams, but they shocked us with the way they played, said Chris Alford, one of three team coaches.
As a result, Perry earned a spot in the Dixie Youth softball World Series for its age group -- also known as the Belles Division. The tournament runs Friday-Aug. 7 and will feature champions from 10 other Southern states, many of whom have a terrific softball pedigree.
We expect stiffer and tougher competition, but I think were going with the attitude were gonna compete and do something special, Alford said.
The trip to Alexandria represents a return engagement for three of Perrys players. Grayce Bearden, Leighann Colvin and Eden Davison qualified for the 2009 World Series as members of a 12U team. That squad lost twice in the double elimination format and came home.
Im hoping it will change since this is last year with (Perry Youth League), Davison said. I want to go out there and win it.
Win or lose, the bulk of Perrys team members will miss the first few days of school in Houston County. Their absences wont be counted against them so long as they arent yet registered in the school. In that regard, the trip extends summer vacation. Thats not all good, however.
Im missing (Perry High School) softball tryouts, Madyson Kelly said.
Perry plans at least a 10-vehicle caravan to Alexandria with somewhere between 30 and 50 friends and family members. Local businesses have been generous in helping defray the cost of the trip, but the group is still about $10,000 shy of matching expected expenses. As a result, the team spends more time fundraising than practicing.
Id rather be fundraising, Neal said. This way, our parents dont have to cough up all that cash.
Contact Chris Deighan at email@example.com.