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Community-wide celebration honors championship baseball team

Family, friends, fans and school and local government leaders gathered at the Russellville Baseball Stadium on Tuesday evening to celebrate the Golden Tiger baseball team, the back-to-back-to-back AHSAA Class 5A state champions.

The community-wide celebration was kicked off by remarks from Russellville City Schools superintendent Heath Grimes. The celebration gave the board, the commission and the city council the chance to simultaneously congratulate and honor the team and get the community involved in one night, instead of on multiple, separate nights, according to Grimes.

Following Grimes, Russellville Board of Education president Greg Trapp, Franklin County Commission chairman Barry Moore, and Russellville mayor David Grissom also gave remarks and congratulated the team on its accomplishments.

On behalf of the team, Russellville head coach Chris Heaps accepted a resolution by the county commission honoring the Golden Tigers 2017 title. Grissom and the Russellville City Council also presented a resolution and provided framed copies of the resolution to each individual player and coach.

“This is a big night for our players and the coaches, but also for the entire Russellville community,” Grissom said. “It’s special to win one state championship, and when you win three back-to-back-to-back, it just makes it even more special.”

Grissom, who was given an autographed batting helmet by the Golden Tigers, said it is important to honor the achievements of the team and to recognize what the achievements mean to the community.

“This is something that these young men, right now, may not realize what they’ve accomplished, but it’s huge,” he said. “We, as a community, are proud of the hard work they’ve put in and how they’ve represented Russellville, and we’re grateful for all of the people that helped make it possible.”

After receiving their resolutions and hearty handshakes from officials, the players and coaches were greeted on the field by fans, who brought memorabilia, clothing and baseballs to be autographed.

According to senior pitcher and first baseman Skylar Holland, this was a great moment for the players to give back to the fans who had supported them all year.

“The community has meant everything to us this season,” said Holland, who was 7-for-9 in the championship series against Faith Academy and got the win on the mound in the decisive game three.

“When we play at home, visiting teams are scared to come here. They pack out this place, and that was huge for us,” he added.

Towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, seating at the baseball stadium was standing room only, and the huge attendance numbers forced fans into the fields behind the outfield wall. Occasionally, not even the mayor could find a seat inside the stadium.

“I had to stay in the outfield for the last two (home playoff games) because it was so crowded,” Grissom said. “It’s just great that the entire community comes out and supports them and the support they’ve shown is incredible.”

The celebration also served as a sort of going away party for the seniors and as one last “thank you” from fans to seniors and vice versa. After being a part of one of the greatest runs in AHSAA baseball history, seven Golden Tigers will be moving on: Russ Carpenter, Colin Garrison, Cody Greenhill, Skylar Holland, Judd Ward, Sid Willis and Chad Wray.

Five of the seven seniors – Carpenter, Greenhill, Holland, Ward, and Wray – have signed scholarships to play baseball at the collegiate level.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Holland said. “The seniors, we’re walking out as winners, and with that, we can carry it on to college and just carry it into life.”

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