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SMALL TOWN FAMOUS: Valley all-stars, from left, Phi Madden and Austin Barber sign a group of baseballs during a team celebration on Sunday afternoon in the Valley Community Center. Photo by Rashad Milligan

Valley all-stars celebrated before first day of school

VALLEY — It was one of the first, of many, local celebrations for the Dixie Youth Division II AAA World Series champion Valley 9 and 10-year-old all-star baseball team in the community center on Sunday afternoon.

All 12 team members sat at a table with the district, state and world series championship trophies displayed in front of them.

“We accomplished a big thing with our group,” left fielder River Pike said. “We stuck together and kept our heads up.”

The all-stars have become local celebrities coming down the stretch of the summer’s tournaments, and now head back to school week after a summer of being in the headlines.

“I went to my school for a teacher breakfast, and all of the teachers, for some reason, asked for my autograph,” third baseman Mason Yarbrough said. “None of the kids will probably know [about the world series on the first day of school], but the teachers will.”

Brayden Bunn, Phi Madden and Yarbrough are all entering fifth grade at Huguley Elementary School and are wearing the white jerseys that they won the world series into school on the first day. 

“I feel like everyone on the team is smart, and we’re all going to make good grades,” Bunn said.”

Hunter Andrews will wear his blue Valley jersey with his championship ring. Andrews said that he plans on wearing his championship shirt at least once every other week. 

The youngest player on the team, CJ Tidwell, is entering the fourth grade this year. He’s going to wear his orange Valley shirt to accompany his championship ring on the first day of school. He said that he doesn’t plan to wear his championship shirt too often during the year because he doesn’t want to mess it up.

The team’s oldest player, Austin Barber, begins sixth grade at W.F. Burns Middle School this year. He plans on trying out for the school’s seventh-grade team this year, with hopes that a majority of his all-star teammates will join him next year. 

First baseman Jax Miller enters the fifth grade this year at Langdale Elementary School. Miller was responsible for driving in the game-winning run in the world series semifinal against North Carolina.

“I just kept my head in there, kept my front leg in there and drove the ball. Base hit,” he said of his game-winner. 

He plans on wearing his white all-star jersey on the first day, but he’s not bringing his championship ring with him.

“I’m glad I got to be a part of this team,” Miller said. “I’m glad I got to make history, that’s what I wanted to do. I came here to make history.”

This summer’s Valley team won the first world series in the community. 

“It’s amazing knowing that you’re the champion of the world,” second baseman Cole House said. “It feels like you’re the best baseball player ever. Thanks to my family and especially God for letting us get here.”

Faith has played a large part in the group’s success, as Yabrough’s mother had pregame devotional and prayer time with the players before every game. The team even held its own church service while out at the Dixie Youth World Series in Lumberton, North Carolina.

“I’m just glad that I have the best of friends on this team, and I just thank God for sending His angels to give us their strength,” Madden said.

Valley will have its team celebration for the community and parade on Aug. 15 beginning at 5:30 p.m. EDT.