It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday late in the month of January. Ivey-Watson Field, freshly tended, is ready for today’s practice. Players of the Gainesville High School baseball team begin arriving right after school is dismissed. Car after car fills the parking lot. The atmosphere is hopeful, and the players are optimistic. They are ready for redemption.
There have always been high hopes for GHS Baseball. A traditionally successful program, it has won multiple state championships and produced several professional players. This is why last year came as a shock: the team exited the GHSA state playoffs after a disappointing first-round defeat at the hands of the Dalton Catamounts. Expectations were much higher, but this could serve as valuable learning experience; the team was only graduating two seniors, AJ Smallwood and Ross Tipton. The team would certainly not forget this letdown.
The Red Elephants are back to after-school practices again, hungry for success after an offseason filled with constant thoughts about the playoff loss. They are ready for redemption, however, and have enough team experience to be a serious contender coming out of Region 8-AAAAAA. The battle-hardened team looks to improve upon the already impressive 22-9 record that they posted last season. They return nine seniors for this upcoming season. Banks Griffith, a four-year starter at shortstop, and Jared Smith, a hard-hitting catcher, headline this group of upperclassmen. Collier Scott at third base and Cameron Wilson at second base could also prove to be valuable assets. The junior class has a strong presence as well, led by Kyle York at first base.
Practice began about two weeks ago. Coach Jeremy Kemp said,”We’re not too far in yet, but the team is practicing hard despite the cold weather.” He’s excited about returning so much senior leadership. Kemp says,”We always talk about winning championships but right now, we want to focus on winning each day.”
“I’ve just been working on what I work on every offseason: getting better, faster, and stronger,” Jared Smith said when we spoke to him. He also believes that the return of so many upperclassmen can help to lead them deep into the playoffs. “It’s our last ride as seniors. We’ve got a lot to accomplish. We want to win.”
We also caught up with Banks Griffith. “I just want to be the best leader I can. I want to lead by example for the younger guys.” He agrees that all nine seniors will be crucial in leading the young Red Elephants to a winning season.
Both Smith and Griffith agree that practice has been hard, but that it will prove to be worth it later in the season.
The team believes that this is the year to prove themselves to their competitors. With their first game coming Thursday, February 22, at West Laurens High School, they will have a chance to do that. Hopes are high for a team that appears promising. Every fan of the Gainesville High School baseball team is excited to see how this senior-filled season will pan out.