Friday evening's crowd at SRP Park, on hand for the Augusta GreenJackets' game, got a look into the future, with some of the South's finest young baseball players on hand.
The Dixie Boys and Junior Dixie Boys tournaments were held this week in Aiken, at Citizens Park, and the coaches and players were stars of the pre-game show, being introduced, having their pictures taken and getting the chance to spend a few minutes on a field where the pros earn a living and strive to move up to AA action and beyond.
The evening also had an unusual "flavor," as the home team normally relies on green and black, but there were specks of red and pale yellow in Friday's mix, reflecting the squad's two-day status as the Augusta Pimento Cheese, in a promotional event celebrating one of the most popular traditions involved in a certain athletic event that attracts most of the world's top golfers to Augusta. The home team's jerseys and caps bore the culinary logo, including a festive-looking, cheesy sandwich on thick bread, with "googly" eyes and an olive on top.
The home team was facing off against the Lakewood BlueClaws, from northern New Jersey, and rolled to a 13-7 victory in front of the relatively youthful crowd.
Among the younger local players in attendance Friday was Brayden Robison, 14, an Aiken Dixie Boys player who serves "anywhere they want me to," as he described his role.
Looking toward the upcoming action in Aiken, he said, "We've known about it for a while. We've prepared a lot. We've practiced almost every day. We've been working our butts off at everything we do."
Robison described his squad as "ready to go" and glad to have the chance to prove its worth among a tournament of top talent. Hitting is the team's forte, he said.
"I think they're ready," said Chris Lincoln, manager of the Aiken Dixie Boys. "They've put in a lot of work over the last two months."