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Middle school preps for big time

Demopolis Middle School hosts a four-team round robin baseball tournament at the Sports-Plex today.

“It’s a day of fun,” DMS head baseball coach Brian Bradley said of the event, which will also include Martin Middle, Clarke County and Sweet Water. “Everybody is going to get to play. We’re trying to get them game ready for high school.”

According to Bradley, that philosophy is the driving notion behind the program’s efforts.

“Our biggest concern is getting these seventh and eighth graders to learn varsity baseball,” Bradley said of the process of acclimating the players to the differences in the game that occur at the middle school level. “I try to talk with the parents before (the players) get to the middle school level and help them to understand it is a huge jump from Cal Ripken ball.”

The process for the middle school program begins with tryouts and the subsequent selection of players for the team. For most players the situation is the first in which the potential of not making the team exists.

“There’s a lot of kids in this town who love baseball and, quite possibly, could be very good at it,” Bradley said. “I want to keep as many kids as I possibly can foster their abilities.”

This season’s squad consists of 22 players. Bradley said the balance of remaining competitive as a team while still allowing each of his players the opportunity to improve themselves is difficult to maintain.

“The drive to win is in me. I want to win in everything I do,” Bradley said. “But I have to understand that what I’m trying to do is build baseball players.”

According to Bradley, that process receives tremendous aid from the program’s supporting cast.

“I’ve got an excellent group of parents this year,” Bradley said. “I appreciate everything all the parents do.”

Also included in that cast assistant coach Trey Smith.

“Trey has been a Godsend,” Bradley said of the second-year coach. “It’s awesome being able to be a head coach and to know that if I was not here, these kids would get exactly what they need from Trey.”

Bradley and Smith are charged with the instruction of a group the DMS head coach feels will have a great deal of success during its prep tenure.

“The eight graders I have right now have all the ability in the world and I feel like they’re going to be an asset to Demopolis baseball for years to come,” Bradley said. “The seventh graders I have right now are exciting to watch.”

The squad will play three games today. Opening ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with the first pitch slated for 9:15.