Atmore's own band of bandits
By By Matthew Nascone
The desire to field a traveling team from the Atmore area began about two years ago during a discussion between Tim McAnally and Jody Dortch. The two men were talking about the Atmore Cal Ripken League tournament team they were coaching and Dortch offered the idea of taking those boys and forming a travel team.
The idea sat idle for the past couple years, but in 2006 McAnally and Dortch turned that idea into the South Alabama Bandits.
"We have wanted to get something together for a couple years now," McAnally, one of the coaches, said. "Our run to the Cal Ripken state tournament with our 9 year olds this year finalized the push for a team."
There are six members of the 9-year-old team 2 that traveled to Alexander City for the state tournament on the Bandits. Four more Atmore 9 year olds are on the team and one boy is from Walnut Hill and played for the NWE league last year.
The team also has one player from Excel and one from Monroe County. McAnally said the final two boys joined the team when Stan Cumby, a coach in the Monroeville Cal Ripken league, saw an article in the Advance about the state-bound Atmore team.
"He (Cumby) knew we wanted to get a team together and he said he had some kids interested," McAnally said. "At that point we knew we needed to go ahead and run with this thing."
The team is sanctioned through the United States Specialty Sports Association and began tournament play this weekend in Destin, Fla. They participated in Sandlot Summer Slam II at the Morgan Sports Complex in Destin.
To prepare for the tournament the team took a month hiatus following the tough loss in the state tournament and began practice in the middle of July.
"Every one of them has worked extremely hard during the summer," McAnally said. "They are out there fighting for positions because this group is one of the most talented to come through Atmore in my opinion."
As for the ones who are not from Atmore, McAnally said he is grateful to have them on the team.
"We have to have help from these guys who are joining us from other leagues because there are some really good teams out there," he said. "And I believe these guys will solidify our team."
He said he has an unusual problem with this group.
"I have never had the problem of being able to use every kid in almost every position and not knowing which one to use," he said.
To alleviate some of the strain that can be placed on a young pitcher's arm, McAnally said he would be using seven pitchers when the team hits the field.
McAnally said the team would compete in tournaments across the Southeast through the fall. He said there would be about five or six tournaments the boys will compete in that span of time.
The only other scheduled tournament as of press time was the All-Star Productions Labor Day Classic in Pace, Fla. on Sept. 1-3.
"We will try to participate as locally as possible," McAnally said.
The USSSA uses a rules system similar to that of Major League Baseball.
McAnally is one of eight coaches who will be on the field assisting the 9 year olds this fall. The other coaches are Jody Dortch, Stan Cumby, Tommy Smith, John Brantley, Brian Settle, Nate Daniel and J.P. Sawyer.
The coaching staff has also received assistance from the local community in the form of donations. McAnally said many local businesses have contributed to their cause and many of the kids' family have chipped in also.
The businesses from Atmore who have donated to the team so far include, Southland Instrument Services, Wilson Trucking, Greenhouse Financial and Jerry's Alignment Center. A donation has also been given to the team from Reliability Solutions, located in Walnut Hill, Fla.
"The entire coaching staff appreciates all the support that has been given to the team," McAnally said.