On a good day—and it’s rare, the players say—Forsyth Central’s baseball clubhouse will smell bearable enough for the entry of a newcomer. Since visitors aren’t usually welcome, they take pride in the “atmosphere” of the room. It’s nothing new.
Inside the Bulldogs’ home base you’ll find dust bunnies, rusted pipes, print outs of team newsletters outdated by a few years, an old, sunk-in sofa and a really nice, flat screen television. In their free time, seniors have access to the video game consoles and dozens of games to choose from. If underclassmen touch the sticks, they’ll have to adhere to a vigorous workout as punishment.
This little clubhouse—a glorified closet in a plain, square building with a steel roof that sits at the corner of Tribble Gap Road and GA-306 – is where team manager Gabe Valencia claims a family comes together.
At first, the talk has not much to do with baseball.
“We’ve been together for over three years. There are no enemies here. We’re a band of brothers,” Valencia claims as team members jokingly wrap him in a headlock.
The family’s seniority starts with three seniors – Parker Biederer, Parker Morrison and Taylor Bauman. After arguing over which uniform combinations each should wear, the three compromised and decided to put on the same thing—their new unis, with retro-style stripes across the chest, and their brand new ‘FC’ monogram caps.
The seniors take a lot of pride in the ‘FC’ monogram. It’s Central’s new identity. It gives them a legitimate look, but each of them are quick to juxtapose their fresh digs with the history of Forsyth Central they say sets them apart from the other schools in the county.
In their minds, Central is the grandfather of the five public schools. In their minds, last season’s Region 7-AAAAA title was proof the Bulldogs are a power to be reckoned with. In their minds, the new look symbolizes the program’s future, as it prepares to move into Class AAAAAAA, with the rest of its county foes, in the fall.
But these seniors have unfinished business. They know exactly where they fit in their school’s story. This season isn’t about a reclassification, but about putting the last stamp on Region 7 before it dissolves.
“This is our last season together, so every second out there we have to make special,” Bauman said.
Last year the Bulldogs turned heads, finishing 15-4 in region play, taking the region title over Creekview and advancing to the second round of the state playoffs before losing a heartbreaking series to Jones County.
Despite the nature of their locker room, this baseball team is entering the spring with the goal of becoming state champions.
“We have really high expectations this season,” Morrison said. “Last year we felt terrible after losing to Jones County, and we don’t want to experience that again.”
“We expect nothing less than going all the way,” Bauman added.
Headlining this year’s team will be a dozen seniors, which will make up what Biederer calls a “potentially dominant” lineup. Last year Biederer was named to the FCN’s all-county team with 16 stolen bases and 22 runs scored on top of a .326 average. Bauman knocked in 20 RBIs with 13 doubles and two home runs.
On the mound, Morrison will become the ace of the pitching staff. Last season he was part of a three-headed machine, combining with then-seniors Logan Howard and Reed Clark to give Central a nearly unhittable staff.
Morrison finished 7-2, had an ERA of just 1.07 and struck out 73 batters in 59 innings. He’ll combine with rising sophomore Ethan Hankins—committed to Vanderbilt, a powerhouse college program—to lead the throwers into the spring.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure,” Morrison said. “Hankins comes back, he’ll have less nerves, but we just have to find our third pitcher. We’re going to be fine.”
Last year was about gaining respect, the senior trio feels. This season, they’ve already started to earn it. On Thursday the Bulldogs faced West Forsyth in a scrimmage at home. They won 16-6. Without hesitating, the players saw it as an early statement and momentum going into the year.
“We don’t get the same respect as the [other] county schools do,” Biederer said. “The other players, they give us respect because they just know the other guys in the county. But we’ve had to earn it from everyone else.”
“They don’t look at us as a power in baseball,” Bauman said.
The seniors hope that, starting in 2017, Central can earn more respect with head-to-head games against Lambert, West, South Forsyth and North Forsyth.
But they get North on Friday to open the season, so there’s an early opportunity to set the tone.
“Sometimes we are looked at as the school that’s not good at sports,” Biederer said. “I don’t know, you don’t want to be looked down on. We want that to change.”