WILLIAMSON —The great sports teams usually always do more than what is required and are always looking for ways to improve themselves during down time.
The case is no different for head coach Brian Haney and the Williamson Red Birds.
The Red Birds, a 13 and under travel baseball team who plays at Lefty Hamilton Park in Williamson which is a field that former St. Louis Cardinal and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial once played on, and according to Haney, that is why they chose “Red Birds” as the team name.
“We just wanted to pay tribute to him since he started his career here in Minor League ball,” he said. “People don’t know how many great players played here.”
Haney said that they are affiliated by the United States Specialty Sports Association, which allows them flexibility on who they can schedule and where they can play games.
“Used to, we played the Cal Ripken League here and had Babe Ruth teams,” Haney said. “The numbers in the area have gotten so down, used to, we had four or five Babe Ruth teams. But now, you can barely get one. We could have went through the Cal Ripken over here as Babe Ruth, but the USSSA allows us to go play these tournaments they have on weekends. You can go anywhere in the country to play. You can go to Tennessee, Huntington, Charleston, and wherever.”
They have been preparing for their first scrimmage game, as Haney put it, of the summer in Poca against a talented team from Hurricane called the West Virginia Sting.
Haney said he’s just wanting to get these players some game reps in the summer after they missed an entire season this spring due to the COVID-19 outbreak in March.
“I’m a volunteer coach at Williamson Middle School,” Haney said. “Where I volunteer, I can pretty much do what I want to in the summer. I keep these guys together and we’ve lost a season, so these guys need to see some live pitching and play some, because when you lose a whole year of baseball and you come back next year without doing anything, it’s going to be hard.”
“We just want to keep these kids playing. Their numbers aren’t where they should be, but we just do the best we can. We’ll field a team, we’ll play hard and we’ll learn to play the right way.
Haney said they have been practicing since June 12, when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice lifted the ban of little league teams practicing together in the state.
“We’re looking for games now with anybody that wants to play,” Haney said. “13U or whatever, we’ll play anybody. They can come here, we can go there, we’ll work something out.”
Another thing that can factor into a team’s success is the amount of chemistry they possess. According to Haney, his squad is made up of good kids, and he lamented that he just wanted to keep them together and that they all get along well.
He also talked about which players he expects to have big years for Williamson.
“I’m expecting a big year out of Michael Hagy, He’ll be an 8th grader next year,” Haney said. “Best hitter we have, in my opinion. We just got a good group of guys who can move around and play all kinds of places. You got Tucker Slone and Nick Savage, and expecting a big year out of Colton Smith. He’s one of our big boys, he’s going to be our big hitter. Bryce Hagy will be an important piece for us. We’ve only got like 10 or 11 kids, so we got about 5, 6, 7 kids that pitch, and we’re just going to move them around.”
Michael and Bryce Hagy are the sons of Belfry head baseball coach Michael Hagy, who also was a three-sport start during his high school career for the Williamson Wolfpack, before going onto having a record setting career for the Marshall Thundering Herd.
Haney , who has coached for 37 years at the youth level said that this summer is all about preparing for the spring of 2021, which is when the kids will hopefully get to return to the field for games at the middle school level.
“We’re just wanting to see what they can do so when March 1st rolls around next spring we’re not wondering, if he pitches where is everybody going to play? So, we want to get that all situated and took care of and make sure the kids have something to do.”
Williamson Red Birds roster:
#1 — Bryce Hagy
#3 — Chris Crum
#4 — Damian Hensley
#5 — Landen Sawyers
#6 — David Michael Hagy
#7 — Nick Savage
#8 — Tucker Slone
#9 — Jonathan Damron
#18 — Colton Smith
#21 — Braxton Giordano
Coach/Manager — Brian Haney
Assistant coach — Jason Savage