Natchez Rams charging into Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Earlier this year Dan Smith decided the T.M. Jennings League baseball players needed a bit more top-notch experience to help them in future Little League, High School or any other baseball endeavors.

After a few months of travel ball on top of the regular T.M. Jennings and All-Star seasons, Smith will have the ultimate opportunity to put them to the test.

The Natchez Rams, a travel squad consisting mostly of T.M. Jennings All-Stars members, will travel to Vicksburg tonight to compete in the Governor&8217;s Cup USSSA 13-to-14-year-old tournament.

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&8220;I wanted to get the kids used to playing in tournaments,&8221; Smith said, referring to his reasoning for putting together the travel team. &8220;This is probably one of the first black teams in Natchez to do something like this. I think it&8217;s something that can pay dividends down the road.&8221;

Team members include

Taylor Strahan, Rodrico Cravens, Patrick Wesley, Javon Washington, Jonathan Hawkins, Davarius Clemmons, Keenen McCallister, Lawrence Green, Brian Isaac, Kelli Puckett, Kevin Barber, Caleb Johnson and Alfred Banks Jr.

If those names look familiar, it&8217;s because all but one participated in Natchez&8217;s runner-up finish in the Little League Junior League State Tournament.

Smith said most were 13, so it gave them a good chance to build for next year.

&8220;Right now 85 percent of the team is 13,&8221; he said. &8220;That means we&8217;ll have almost everyone coming back. I can just add some 12-year-olds in next year. I had a couple asking me to be on the team earlier this year, but I told them this season was a way for me to scout them for next year.&8221;

Smith wouldn&8217;t give any predictions for the weekend, but he said he had big hopes heading in.

&8220;I like our chances,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;m looking forward to seeing us in the finals come Sunday.&8221;