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Gainesville A's open season with new lineup
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When the Gainesville A’s American Legion baseball team takes the field this summer, many of its players will dawn the trademark yellow and red uniform of this summer team for the first time.

The A’s open up their regular season when they visit Dawsonville’s American Legion team at 6:30 p.m. tonight, featuring a young lineup consisting primarily of first-time players from area high schools and colleges.

“I feel pretty good about the team,” A’s head coach Clay Haynes said. “There’s not a lot American Legion experience out here, but there’s a lot of potential on this team.”

The A’s look to repeat their recent success under Haynes, with three straight seasons of American Legion state final four appearances. A fourth is the team’s current target as it heads into the regular season.

“The final four in state is a big goal for us,” Haynes said. “Hopefully we can do that this year.”
To do that, Gainesville must crack the top four in a region tournament to earn a spot in the state playoffs. The A’s play in the North region against teams from Dawsonville, Alpharetta, Canton, Loganville, Rockdale County, Conyers, Douglasville and Duluth.

“All the teams are fairly strong,” Haynes said. “It makes games more competitive.”

Gainesville’s 22-game schedule includes two tournaments and four doubleheaders in June and July, including a tournament they host June 24-27. All of the A’s home games are played at Ivey-Watson Field at Lanier Point Park.

Gainesville has only four players returning from last year’s final four team to remind it of last year’s success. As a result, Haynes says the team will have to rebuild early in the year, but is expected to still have a good season.

“Everybody is still trying to get to know each other, but we’ll get over that quickly,” he said. “I expect them to come out and show up ready to play.”

The four returning players are pitchers Andy Edmondson and Matt Pilgrim, catcher Bucky Free and outfielder Cody Ackerman.
“I came back because it’s a lot more relaxed than any other team,” said Edmondson, who begins playing for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College this fall. “It’s definitely going to be different with all the new guys, but I love the coaches here.”

The new players come to the A’s from several area schools, including White County, West Hall, Gainesville, Flowery Branch, North Georgia Christian, North Hall and Chestatee. They were attracted to the team for different reasons, with some coming to prepare for college baseball while others simply wanted to play their favorite sport during the summer.

“Their success from last year opened my eyes and made me want to join the team,” said first-year player Ryan Avery, who plans to walk on at North Georgia College & State University next spring. “I want to get better as the team does.”

“This gives them a place to play during the summer,” Haynes added. “But we still have fun and joke around.”
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