WARNER ROBINS -- Three teams traveled just down the road to play at the Little League Southeastern Park. Another drove 456 miles.
Members of all eight teams playing for the Southeast title -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia -- were on the field helping out in the Challenger games.
Warner Robins American Little League fielded three teams in the Challenger tournament -- two minor teams and one major -- said Andrea Sells, Challenger Division vice president for WRALL.
The teams are grouped by ability.
One team from Lexington, Tennessee, made the eight-hour drive to Warner Robins for its kids to be able to play in the tournament.
Manager Janna Middleton said the players and parents had planned to head back home Sunday night after the 3 p.m. game so the adults could be back at work Monday morning.
The other Challenger team was from Georgia District 7, located in north Georgia.
The husband and wife team of Sean and Paula Cooper brought the minor league Giants All Stars to the park. Both special education teachers in Houston County, the pair were excited to have their players on the field.
“To have the other states out here helping, it is a great interaction,” Sean Cooper said. “It helps them build relationships.”
One such interaction helped former Challenger player Audrey Andrews.
Audrey, now 12, played three years in the Challenger League program in St. Cloud, Florida. The outfielder was an All Star for the St. Cloud Little League team that represented Florida at the Little League Softball Southeastern Regional Tournament.
“When she was younger, she was afraid of the ball,” her mother, Laura Andrews, said.
Now Audrey is not afraid of anything, except maybe not getting her pants dirty.
“It is not a good game if she doesn’t get dirty sliding,” Andrews said of her daughter. “I’m just very proud.”
Audrey’s goal is to play junior softball at St. Cloud and maybe get an opportunity to be on another All Star team.
Children can participate in Challenger programs beginning at age 4.
The youngest player on the field, Amiya Eubanks from Hull, Georgia, was just starting kindergarten this week. With her pink helmet and infectious smile, she was running around the outfield with players from the Florida team.
“These boys helping is just amazing,” Paula Cooper said.