Manila boys dedicated to the game
Miles Gifford, Joel Burrow, Brock Birmingham, and Dalton Brumley have a lot in common. They are all nine years old, they are all in the third grade at Manila Elementary school, and they all love baseball.
The four boys started playing together on the 4-5 year old team and have been teammates ever since. They play on their local team, the Manila Cains, and the USSSA Arkansas Storm team.
Last year they were part of the NEA Rangers when they finished overall with a 58-1 record. Arkadelphia was the only team that defeated them and they came back to beat them for the championship.
The Arkansas Storm Team is made up of players from Jonesboro, Weiner, and Manila. They have a record (as of Wednesday, April 21) this year of 21-2 starting in March. They have played and won tournaments in the Frozen Rope Tournament in Jonesboro; Jack Pot Tournament in Cordova, Tenn.; Rumble on the River tournament in Cordova; Mississippi Shootout in Southhaven, Miss., the King Swings in Jonesboro, and the Jonesboro Triple A Tournament. They were runner-up in a tournament in Cordova but it was a rain out and Arkansas Storm was ahead 3-0 but the winner was decided by runs given up. The Jonesboro Express team gave them their second loss in the 21-2 record in a Jonesboro tournament. Arkansas Storm came back and defeated them to win the tournament title.
The summer league is just getting underway and the Manila Cains have a 3-0 record.
For the last 12 months of baseball, the boys have an 82-3 record.
During their 2009, 8 and under season, they won the state championship.
They enjoy being teammates and playing baseball. Miles plays first base and pitches. Brock plays short stop and pitches. Joel plays third base and catches, and Dalton plays second base and left field.
They admit they do get tired occasionally and even though they are just nine years old, they realize they have made a commitment to the team. They all agree they get up and give it the best they have.
Each has his favorite player and team. Miles' favorite player is Grady Sizemore with Cleveland but his favorite team is the St. Louis Cardinals. Joel has followed Jim Edmonds, his favorite player, from the Cardinals to Chicago and on to the Brewers but his favorite team is the Chicago Cubs. Brock and Dalton share Albert Pujols as their favorite player as well as the Cardinals team. When they are not playing baseball, they enjoy watching the professionals play.
They have made a lot of good friends on their traveling teams with players from other towns. They enjoy the time they share during the weekend tournaments. They especially enjoy the tournaments held in Southhaven, Miss.
"It is huge," Miles said.
It has 21 baseball fields, bowling alley, indoor batting facility, games and other activities. They were in a tournament there with 117 teams from coach pitch to 17 year olds participating.
The four boys share a common goal for the season -- to make it to the USSSA World Series.
"That would be so great," Dalton said.
Matt Jones of Jonesboro is the head coach. Darrell Birmingham, Scott Gifford and Sloan James serve as assistant coaches.
The boys have a great support group when they are on the road. Miles is the son of Scott and Rachel Gifford; Brock is the son of Darrell and Tina Birmingham; Joel is the son of Joel and Jennifer Burrow; and Dalton is the son of Don and Melissa Brumley.