Baseball 4 Christ
Going 'fourth' to spread the word
by Doug Gorman
For the fourth straight year, high school baseball players from Coweta County will use their love of the game to also spread the Gospel to youngsters in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
The Baseball4Christ team will travel to Mexico from June 10-16 with an itinerary that also includes four games, two of which will be held in professional baseball stadiums against local teams from around Cancun.
This year’s trip also includes four mini camps for children who live in the area.
The Baseball4 Christ team will also have the chance to minster and share their Christian testimony with the children from local schools.
Players will also walk the streets of the poverty stricken areas in Mexico where they will play wiffle ball games with the children who live in the area, as well as distribute Bibles.
“We are just so excited about how this has grown over the years,” Newnan First Baptist Youth pastor Brian Morgan, who helped start the trips along with Mike Winslett.
“We know this is what God wants us to do,” Morgan added.
Nine local churches and six denominations represent this year’s Baseball4Christ squad.
This year’s team includes players from East Coweta, Newnan, Northgate, and The Heritage School.
Catcher Blake Lorow, infielder Tim Manning, pitchers Austin Bellamy, Brandon Ruston, Jordan Lewis, first baseman Matthew Myers, and outfielder Cameron Smith will representEast Coweta.
Northgate pitcher Robert Massenburg, second base Buddy Green, and outfielder Jeffrey Ginn are also making the trip. They’ll join Viking assistant coach Tim Lowery and baseball alum Wes Harvey, who will travel as a graduate assistant.
Massenburg and Lorow are going back for the second time.
Harvey, meanwhile, has made all four with Morgan and Winslett after being part of the inaugural trip in 2010 as a high-school sophomore.
Both Newnan and The Heritage School will be represented by a pair of players, including. Brandon Dawson and Beau Shellnutt from the 2013 Cougars.
Center fielder Candler Rich and second baseman Joe Bonner will also make the trip from The Heritage School.
Also selected to play is Jeffrey Barnes from Wakulla (Fla.) High.
“It is great to see these guys just cut lose and and have a good time without the pressures that come with being teenagers and high school athletes.” Morgan said. “They get on this trip and they realize how lucky they really are.
Morgan says some of the most exciting times on the trip happen when the team is not playing a game.
“You really don’t see teenagers playing Wiffle ball games, but when we go on these trips the guys have so much fun playing with the children that live there,” Morgan said.
Past teams have also found ways to cut loose off the field.
Last year’s team had its answer to a viral bus-ride video from Harvard University’s baseball team to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” uploading its own version to YouTube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4fxcvpRKjE)
Members of the Baseball4Christ teams are nominated by their high school coach and chosen after a letter of recommendation is submitted by their pastor.
Set to travel with the Baseball4Christ are Lowery and former Newnan assistant David Robertson, who are making their fourth trips to Mexico.
Robertson was inspired by his initial trip that he later became an ordained Baptist Minister. He is currently head coach at Lamar County Middle.
Team personnel include Mike Winslett (CEO Baseball for Christ), Rev. Brian Morgan (VP and Team Pastor), Rhodes Skinner (Team Pastor), Josh Gordon (Trainer), Wes Harvey (Graduate Assistant), Justin Slavan (AV and Worship leader), Marie Jeter (Team Nurse) and Ashley Culpepper (Interpreter).
Baseball4Christ will be honored on Sunday, June 9 during the 10:50 a.m. service at Newnan First Baptist where Morgan serves as youth pastor. Morgan is also a community coach for Newnan High School.
The trip has evolved each year.
In 2010, Baseball4Christ made its first trip to the Yucatan Peninsula with a team made up of 16-19 year olds with Kenny Morris, who just retired as Newnan’s baseball coach at the end of the this season, serving as head coach.
Robertson and Lowery served as assistant coaches.
The 2011 team played its finished with a 4-0 record beating the Cancun National Team 11-0. Kevin Werner celebrated his birthday on that trip with a no-hitter.
Last year the team also played in a couple of pro stadiums and also ministered to children of men and women serving time in prison.