Special to the Gazette
The original Augusta Bullets baseball team was started in the 1980s by Dave Turpin and Tom Buell. These gentlemen wanted to start a team that would stick together from little league through high school.
It didn't take long for Tom and Dave to realize they had something special. It was rare to find 12 kids in a small town with such natural ability and vision for the game of baseball. When most competitive teams recruit from neighboring towns, they wanted to build a team from their hometown, harboring community strength and pride.
That team was a success and went on to win many tournaments, and even earned a state championship.
As an original member of the Bullets, Luke Carey plans to carry on the tradition of the team that he played on for more than 12 years. Now 25 years later, he has put together a new Bullets team and holds true to these same core values.
And so a new era begins.
Carey, along with fellow coaches Wes Shinkle and Joey Altenhofen, have worked hard to instill respect and hard work into these young players. They began practicing in the fall, and the boys' hard work and dedication are paying off.
The new Bullets team is having similar success to the original team. The Bullets have made it to almost every championship game in every tournament they've entered this summer season.
So far, they have earned three second-place finishes and three first-place finishes, including their latest championship at the 46th Annual Charlie Dunn Tournament in their hometown Augusta. They also won two different Butler County Invitational tournaments.
Big hitters like Gavin Kiser (outfield) Dylen Slusser (catcher) and Camden Shinkle (3rd base) have helped to clinch some of their biggest wins. Cannon Carey (shortstop) and Marcus McClanahan (second base), who are the first two hitters in the lineup, have great chemistry in the middle infield. Eric Boucher (pitcher) and Kaden McDaniel (first base) are also very consistent hard hitters and round out the impressive infield.
Kalvin LaPlant, Jake Wheeler, Tyler Edwards, Brayden Altenhofen and Wyatt Jackson rotate the outfield positions. Their speed and ability to get to the ball quickly make it difficult for runners to advance to second or third base safely.
"All of the boys are very flexible, no matter where we put them, they do what they need to do and get the job done with no complaints." coach Shinkle said.
Along with learning good solid baseball, one of the coaches' goals is for people in the community to recognize these boys over time and have only good things to say about them. They want to hear that they are becoming role models for younger kids to look up to. Not only because they are good ball players, but also well-mannered and respectful young men.
Numerous times this year, the coaches and parents have received compliments on their sportsmanship and discipline on the field.
"Those are the best things to hear," coach Carey said. "Yes, it's great to win a ball game, hit a grand slam, or get a double play, but when someone notices how well behaved your team is, that's the best compliment a coach and parent can receive."
The coaches know it all begins with the parents. If the parents and fans show respect to other teams and officials, it is easier and more likely for the players to follow suit in any sport. The coaches strive to be an example of that as well. Even when a call doesn't go their way, these coaches make it a point to emulate what they have instilled in the players; Respect.
With their first summer in the books, the Bullets are ready to take a little time off before preparing for next level when they move up to kid pitch.
"Its always a challenge to move up a division, but with these boys' work ethic and natural ability, I'm confident we'll be successful at the next level." Carey said.