When the ThunderStix travel baseball team originated from a group of kids not taken by other local teams two years ago, expectations were tempered. Now, the team is nationally ranked and has a positive impact on the lives of its players.
The 12-and-under team is part of the ThunderStix travel program with an age range of 5-17. Coached by Patrick Davis and Justin Bolin, the 12-under ThunderStix have emerged as the top-ranked team in Georgia, and seventh in the nation, in USSSA Baseball for its classification.
Even more important than that has been the emergence of role models and a family atmosphere for the children on the team.
“Each one comes from different backgrounds,” said Bolin, the assistant coach. “They all have different adversities they’ve been plagued with in their lives. Quite a few of them needed some male mentorship, some positive male role models they could look up to.”
Bolin said Davis, the manager, takes in at least two or three of the players every weekend even though he has three children of his own. For himself, Bolin said he didn’t have much interest in having children until becoming a coach.
“They’ve taught me a lot at the same time I’ve been teaching them,” Bolin said. “As a matter of fact, before we had a couple kids come over from other teams, we didn’t have a single player with a biological father on the team besides one.”
Davis and Bolin became coaches despite having little coaching experience, and their teaching abilities have grown along with the players. That maturation was born out of children of different backgrounds coming together to form a team and family.
“You have some kids coming from single-mother homes, some kids don’t have everything, some kids have a father, and some have everything,” Davis said. “That’s the whole thing, to teach them everything isn’t always going your way, but you need to come together.”
The ThunderStix, who practice at Masters City Little League, travel in surrounding states to play, including a late-season trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. The experience of traveling as a team is also a plus for the coaches and players.
“When we have get-togethers, it’s not like we don’t talk to each other,” infielder Matthew Sumpter said. “But we’re a family and we act that way and we present ourselves that way.”
For a team succeeding on the field, the success of providing a family-type atmosphere and male presence has given the children more off it. The same can be said for the coaches who work to contribute and spend time with the players.
“It’s really just heartfelt for me to be out here,” Bolin said. “To be with these boys is an honor. It’s an honor to share the field with these young men, because they really are good kids.”