No one knows if Cass High School’s Sam Ayers will follow their footsteps into a pro baseball career, but he, too, has been selected to play in Norman for the Georgia team in the Heartland Baseball Classic from June 17-22.
“The Heartland Baseball Classic is one that has been around since the mid-’70s and there has been a lot of big-name talent to come out of this game,” Team Georgia head coach Todd Eubanks said. “For these kids to be a part of that legacy is an honor.”
Eubanks and Ayers will reunite after Eubanks coached Ayers for the first three years of his high school career.
Ayers, who is signed to play at Wallace State in Alabama next season, posted 32 hits this season for Cass, including 10 doubles, one home run and 21 singles. He drove in 21 RBIs and scored 26 runs while accumulating a .337 batting average.
Both player and coach are happy to be reunited.
“I always said that Sam was deserving of being a part of this game and when he was a senior and I had a chance to select him, he was one of the first players I went out and grabbed,” Eubanks said. “Sam is a baseball player. He eats it, drinks it and sleeps it. He loves the game and I think this is an experience that he can take with him and remember the rest of his life.”
Ayers now feels like the relationship with Eubanks has come full circle.
“My last practice in high school is going to be with the coach I started off with. I like that,” Ayers said. “I like the consistency. Even while playing with different players, I’m with the coach I played three years for.”
The Heartland Baseball Classic collects some of the best players from around each of the competing states and pits them against each other to see who has the most talent. The states competing against Georgia will be Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.
“The Heartland classic started out as a wager between a coach from California and a coach from Oklahoma on which state had better talent. Since then it has grown to what we see today,” Eubanks said.
Of course, bragging rights will be on the line.
“A lot of these kids have already committed and signed so it’s more for the prestige of going to represent their state among some of the best talent in the nation,” Eubanks said. “Georgia has done very well in the Heartland classic. The past few years we have brought home the gold and silver medals. There’s a lot of state pride. When Texas and Colorado come down, they see that Georgia ‘G’ and they see what kind of talent comes from the state.”
Ayers believes this Georgia team has the talent to win it again this year.
“The only time I can think of when I played on a team with this much talent is when I played with Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier (top ten picks in the 2013 MLB draft) last year,” Ayers said. “Every time I get on the field, I just want to get better, but every time you get on a team with this much talent, you expect to win.”
“We have a mix of players from all over the state,” Eubanks said. “We have a good mixture of speed and power. We have some good power arms and we should be able to represent the state of Georgia well.”
The goal is always to win, but even if Georgia does not come away with the gold, the players and coaches will cherish the week in Norman.
“There have been a lot of great coaches who have been a part of Team Georgia so I jumped at the opportunity to do this,” Eubanks said. “The community of Norman does a great job of putting it on; it’s a big deal for them to bring these kids out there because they’ve had big names to come through the event. Not all of these kids will go pro, but for a week, they will all be treated like pros.
“For players like Sam, it’s all about the memories.”