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June 23, 2014

Devils visit Braves as summer ball wraps up

TIFTON — Kyle Kirk had no complaints Monday morning. Considering where the head coach of the Tift County Blue Devils baseball team said he was calling from, it was hard to blame him. Kirk was at Turner Field in Atlanta, where he was working as a coach with the Braves Kids Baseball Clinic. Helping out were Hunter McAllister and the recently graduated Zack Bullard.

Kirk was given short notice to attend. He said he received a call Friday asking if he could be there. It just so happened that he had an opening in his schedule after weather had forced a delay in a scheduled summer league game with Coffee.

The clinic was a one-day event. The Braves website said it was a chance for kids ages nine-12 to receive "personalized pitching, hitting and fielding instruction by Braves alumni." Coaches confirmed by the Braves to appear were Brian Jordan, Charlie Leibrandt and Marquis Grissom, though Kirk also said Terry Harper was there.

Three morning hours were spent working with the former Atlanta players and Kirk and assistants in the morning and he said they would be playing games during the afternoon. An unnamed current Braves player was scheduled to make an appearance as well, according to the site. Monday was an off day for the big club, as they were traveling from Washington to Houston.

With much of his varsity roster playing travel ball, Kirk had been working with much younger Blue Devils during the summer season, several of them upcoming ninth graders.

Last Wednesday, he said, one group of young players dubbed the "blue team" split games with Cook. Blake Webb had the winning hit in a 5-4 win and Wilkes Webb was on the mound. They lost to Cook, 5-4, in the other contest. Zach Abbott and Austin Haskins were among the pitchers who worked.

A day later, they defeated Fitzgerald, 4-1 and 2-0. Keenan Webb won the former and Blake Becton took the latter.

The coach has been seeing positive things out of his younger players. "They had a good week in the weight room," he said of his rising ninth graders. He said he believes they will have a good season next year after some ups and downs in middle school.

Kirk and crew were hopeful of one more game before the GHSA dead week hit, ending their opportunities to play in 2014.

They are scheduled to play Coffee today at home, but he said he was still working on securing umpires. If he was unable to get it to work out, "that's it," he said, and the summer season would be over.

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