By R. Alan Richardson
You don’t always win the championship. The ring doesn’t always get put on your finger. It’s not always about winning the gold. Especially when you’re coaching your own son and the Morgan County Recreation Department’s 10 and under All-Star team. As head Coach Ryan Morgan and his son, Colton, put it, “We had fun!”
That was the theme for this father-son duo after finishing fourth in the State Tournament hosted by the MCRD here in Madison. Isn’t that what it’s all about for youth sports? If not, it should be. At least in my humble and accurate opinion. There’s so much ado made about All-Star travel teams, AAU basketball, and the like that it makes you wonder if the adults have lost all cognition about why our kids should be involved in extracurricular activities. Whether it’s in the band, chorus, or other minor sports, how is it that the parents sometimes push their own kids to play only one sport thinking they’ll be the next number one pick in the major league draft? If there’s one thing this old coach knows for certain, it’s that we need to let our kids be kids.
Every other weekend I hear parents and others talking about the “World Series” their children or grandchildren are playing in. How is that? How many “World Series” can there be? Well, it’s a lot about money. Just follow the cash as they say. Teams are paying hundreds of dollars to play in these events. Parents are shelling out hundreds more for uniforms, equipment, meals, and rooms to chase the dream. But, whose dream is it? The kid’s or the parent’s? Who knows?
After sitting down with Morgan and talking with one of his assistant coaches, Joey Eidson (whose son Drew was also on the team), these guys have it all figured out. Let’s just let these boys enjoy the moment and have fun.
The 42-year old Morgan is the father of three (Christopher-12, Colton-10, and GeorgiaAnn-5). He has been married to his wife, Rebecca Roling, for 15 years. In his own words, he said, “I’ve been a cop for 20 years,” and is now a captain for the Lawrenceville Police Department. He was a three-sport athlete at both Morgan County High School and Rutledge Academy, where he graduated from. He’s a mountain of a man at 6’6” and 325 pounds, but has the heart of a kitten when talking about his family and coaching this year’s group of All-Stars. He said, “I’m very proud of Colton and all my kids. He’s a great kid who helps his grandmother out whenever she calls and I love him to death. Sure, he has his moments, but for the most part, he’s a hard worker and a great young man.” His son was the starting third baseman on this year’s squad.
Morgan again commented about the team, “It was work; a lot of work because the league this year wasn’t flooded with a bunch of travel ball players. This year we might have had one or two that played some travel ball, but most of them had never made All-Stars. It was a new challenge for them, but they did extremely well. They had a lot of success and did better than anyone expected.”
The fourth-place finish came with a loss to eventual State Champion Brantley County, an 11-4 win over Dooley County, and a heart-breaking loss to Jasper County. After falling behind early 7-0, the team scratched and battled their way back to a 7-6 margin before losing. It was a tough way to go out. “We had our chances,” he said. The loss came without the full-time service of two starters. Catcher and shortstop Nathan Perdoso was unavailable for action with a previously scheduled baseball camp at Georgia Southern and Chris Timmons broke his left thumb on his glove hand during warmups. He battled through it and came in to pitch four innings allowing only one walk and one hit during their comeback in the final innings.
As an upcoming fifth grader, Colton told us, “It was a new experience for me and some of the other players. We’d never done this before, but it was challenging and fun.” There’s that key word again. Let them have fun. When asked what he’s learning from playing baseball and football, he said, “Every pitch, every down is different. You might do one thing one time and have great success, but if you get cocky, the next time could be a failure.” Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Pretty wise words to live by from a 10-year-old.
Ryan continued, “I love coaching these kids in football and baseball. When you get a group of boys that want to learn how to play the game, you can’t help but have fun.”
No team gets by without some great assistant coaches. “I had some of the most knowledgeable and positive guys helping out with the team. Stephen McClain (a former Morgan County and Piedmont College MVP), Joey Eidson, and Jason Denton all had sons playing on the team (Luke McClain, Drew Eidson, and Wesley Denton). It’s great when you don’t have to coach your coaches. They were up for anything that needed to be done and just did a great job. No way could I have done any of this without them. Joey must have thrown 10,000 balls in the batting cage. He’d come back sweating like a pig in that 90 degrees heat,” he laughed. “Stephen is a phenomenal guy that has so much knowledge of the game of baseball. He was a great asset. Jason was our pitching coach. He did a tremendous job with our pitchers, catchers, and in a lot of different areas.”
Eidson was reached for a quote. Here’s what he had to say. “It was one of the most fulfilling weeks of my life for me. We had a great group of kids, coaches, and parents. I felt lost today not having either a practice or game to go to. The MCRD did a great job hosting both the 7-8 and 10 and under State Tournaments.”
Morgan ended the conversation with this, “It’s good to know that the football and baseball programs at Morgan County High School have a bright future with these boys coming up. You can’t play forever.”