The Americus Travelers baseball program was founded in the summer of 1995 for young men 18 and under who resided or attended school full-time in Sumter County. Coach Tim Estes, the founder and first head coach of the Travelers, started the program as an alternative to American Legion baseball, feeling that players from Americus should not have to compete for playing time with kids from other counties. The program was also started as a key way to promote local baseball talent. The Travelers played their regular season schedule against teams from the Middle Georgia Boys Baseball League. The Travelers won the Middle Georgia league title and the GRPA District III Championship and competed in the GRPA State Tournament in Dublin.
In 1996, Estes became the Director of Baseball Operations for the Travelers and Billy Nicholson was asked to assume the head coach position. Nicholson promptly took the Travelers to their second consecutive Middle Georgia and GRPA district titles and took things one step further to win the GRPA state title in Statesboro. In 1997, the Americus squad won their third GRPA district title and their second state championship in a row. Among other highlights for the Travelers in their third season were competing in the Bay City Tournament in Panama City, Florida, and also a game against the Colorado Silver Bullet women's softball team.
In 1998, Coaches Estes and Nicholson wanted to get involved in a national organization that would allow the team to have an opportunity to compete for a national title. The Travelers joined the United States Speciality Sports Association (USSSA). Americus promptly won the 1998 USSSA State Championship and went on to compete in the USSSA World Series in Lakeland, Florida. The team finished fifth in the nation, and first in the 12-state Atlantic Coast Division. Also in '98, the Travelers competed in a Legion tournament in Montgomery, Alabama. They also won the GRPA District III Tournament in Tifton and competed in the GPRA State Tournament in Dublin.
For 1999, the Travelers had a successful 30-15 season. They competed in the Albany Post 30 (Legion) Tournament in Albany and in a tournament in Columbus. They competed in the GRPA State Tournament and finished up third place. The Travelers also played their second year of USSSA competition and once again won the USSSA State Championship. At the USSSA World Series in Cocoa Beach, Florida, the team finished fourth in the nation in the AAA division. Their record in the tournament was 6-2.
To launch the sixth season in 2000, the current roster of the Travelers competed against a team made up of former players; the current team won 6-1. They also wound up runner-up in the Circle City Classic in Dothan, Alabama, and posted a 5-2 worksheet in the USSSA State Tournament, emerging as runner-up. Later they went 3-1 in the East Cobb Team Showcase held at Auburn University, then they clinched first place in the Independence Day Classic held in Albany. Competing in the USSSA World Series in Lakeland, Florida, the Travelers posted a 6-3 worksheet and wound up with a fourth place finish.
(Also in 2000, a second travel team, the Americus Lightning, came about. CLICK HERE to view the team roster, schedule and game recaps of their initial season.)
For 2001, the Travelers had perhaps their most successful season yet, what with a runner-up spot in the USSSA National Invitational Tournament in Perry, followed by a 3-0 showing in the Circle City Classic in Dothan, Alabama. They won the first ever Travelers Round Robin Challenge, held in Americus, then came runner-up in the South Georgia Classic held in Douglas. For the USSSA AAA State Tournament, the team brought the first place trophy back home to Americus; later in the World Series in Winter Haven, Florida, the team posted a 3-2 worksheet and finished fifth place in the nation. Head Coach Billy Nicholson decided to leave at the end of the season.
WORTH NOTING: 2001 was a banner year for elite travel baseball in Americus as there were four teams altogether - the Travelers, Lightning, Travelers Jr, and Thunder. Click the links below for rosters, schedules, and recaps of these respective teams:
2001 - Americus Lightning
2001 - Americus Travelers Junior Team
2001 - Americus Thunder
In 2002, Danny Slaughter took the reins as Head Coach. The Travelers went undefeated in the Richard Calhoun Invitational Tournament in Albany. They also competed in the USSSA AAA State Tournament in Milledgeville and the Auburn University Showcase Tournament. The team went 2-3 in the USSSA AAA World Series, held at the Roger Dean Complex in Jupiter, Florida. They ended up ranked #15 in the nation.
Major changes took place in the 2003 season. The Travelers were no longer sponsored in part by the Americus-Sumter County Parks and Recreation Authority; funding came via parents, families, fans, and other supporters. Also, for the first time, the players were now 15 and under as opposed to 18 and under. The team had a strong showing in the Memorial Day Tournament in Albany, going 3-1. They also competed in the First Pitch Festival in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The State Championship title returned to Americus as the Travelers defeated Warner Robins in a best-of-three series. Later, the team went 2-2 at the USSSA Class AAA World Series in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The Travelers enjoyed an outstanding 2004 season, climaxing with a 39-11 worksheet. Coming away with a 2-2 split in the Post 30 Tournament, the team rebounded to win the USSSA 16 and Under State Championship in Macon, going 5-1 in the tournament. Later, they went 4-1 in the Parkview Shootout in Norcross. The team had qualified for World Series play in Louisiana, but the tournament was cancelled. Instead, the Travelers took part in the Competition Unlimited National Tournament in Pensacola, Florida - and walked away the NATIONAL CHAMPS, which was a first for the program in it's nine year history. The season ended with a good 3-1 showing at the Wood Bat Classic in Gastonia, North Carolina. For the first time ever, the Travelers fielded a fall team and a number of games were played from September to November.
For the 2005 season, there were two Travelers teams - a 17 and under group and a 15 and under group. Tim Estes took the reins as Head Coach for the younger squad, and Danny Slaughter continued as Head Coach for the 17 and under team. The 17 and under took part in several tournaments - among them, the Post 30 Memorial Day Tournament in Albany, HARD Invitational in Perry, and the Pendleton Showcase in Statesboro. In June, the team hosted the Travelers Showcase at home in Americus. The 15 and under contingent went 23-10-2 for their season; the group also took part in several tournaments, the most successful being the Cocoa Expo International in Florida and the Gatorade/Hampton Inn National Classic in Greenville, South Carolina - the team took runner up titles in both tournaments.
In 2006, the 16 and Under team became the lone squad, and accomplished plenty! They went 5-1 in the Memorial Day Tournament in Albany and also 4-1 in the Parkview Summer Shootout in Atlanta. The Travelers also aced the Weekend Challenge held at home in Americus, going a perfect 5-0, and later won the AAU Division Two 16 and Under State Championship. They also competed in the Gameday Open Tournament in Memphis, Tennessee, and the 4th of July Tournament in Albany. The season climaxed at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. In the AAU 16 and Under Nationals, Americus wound up 5th in the nation. As a result of the top five placement, the team earned an automatic berth into the 2007 tournament. Adam Fussell and Michael Swain were named to the AAU All American Tournament Team.
For their 2007 season, the Travelers competed in the G.C. Croft Memorial Day Tournament in Albany, the Faulkner University Showcase Tournament in Alabama, the Middle Georgia Showcase Tournament in Cochran, and the Upstate Carolina Baseball Independence Day Showcase. They once again hosted the Travelers Weekend Challenge in Americus, where they went a perfect 5-0. But that tournament didn't hold a candle to the one that would close the season; Americus wound up with a 1st Place finish in the nation in the USSSA 17 and Under World Series held in Gastonia, North Carolina. Will Raines was named the overall Tournament MVP, and Will Webb was named Defensive MVP. Raines, Webb, Adam Fussell, David Byrd, Michael Swain and Easton Glover were named to the USSSA All Tournament Team.
The program resumed in 2013 with a team of 13 and under players. The Travelers won four of their eight regular season tournaments - the Arbor Day NIT Tournament in Forsyth, the Roadrunner Classic in Cordele, the Surf & Turf Tournament in Brunswick, and the Comebackers Classic in Monroe. Competing in the USSSA World Series in McDonough, the Orange and Navy elite ended up the Runner Up, and finished their year with a successful 25-14 worksheet.
After a brief hiatus, the Travelers became a 14U team and played a limited number of tournaments in the fall. Their worksheet was 10-6-2. Americus won the Tallest Trophy NIT Tournament in Macon, then took runner up in both the Uppercut Wood Bat Invitational in Montgomery, Alabama and the 15U Fall State Tournament in Macon. Their 2014 spring/summer season went from April-July. With a record of 28-12-1, they took first place in the Rawlings T&G All Stars Classic in Peachtree City and the Arbor Day NIT Tournament at Jones County. They ended up as the Consolation Flight winner in the Atlanta Summer Super NIT and the Red Flight Championship in the Round Tripper held at Monroe. The Travelers were runners up in the USSSA State Tournament in LaGrange, then went Final Four in the USSSA Global World Series in Alabama.
In the fall of 2014, the Travelers became 15U, and played a limited number of tournaments. The team went 7-7; they won the Champs Wear The Rings NIT in LaGrange. Also, a second 13U team was added. They played four fall tournaments and posted a 5-9 worksheet. The team took the Lower Flight championship in the Champs Wear The Rings NIT in LaGrange and also were runner-up in the Rings/Peachtree City Fall Series.
For the spring/summer 2015 season, there were four Travelers teams - 12U, 13U, 14U and 15U. The 12U went 3-6-1 for their initial season. The 13U team's worksheet was 10-5-1. They won the Upper Flight Championship in the Championship Belt Bash NIT in Carrollton. The 14U team went 17-13-1. They finished as the runner up in the Memorial Day Classic in Macon, took first place in the Cecil Brown Tournament in Waycross, and were runner up in the Summer Nationals in Dublin. The 15U had a great 22-8-2 season. They won the Champs Wear The Rings Tournament in LaGrange, the Troy Alabama Post 70 Tournament, and the Game On Showcase in Tifton and Americus. They took runner up in both the Comebacker Classic in Americus and the Grand Slam World Series of Baseball in Panama City Beach.
There were four teams once again for spring/summer 2016 - 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U. The 13U went 4-9 for their season; they emerged as Runners Up in the Lower Flight Championship of the Double Points Ring Event in McDonough and Runner Up in the Red Championship in the Cecil Brown Tournament at Trembling Earth Complex in Waycross. The 14U compiled an 8-13-1 worksheet. They were the Runners Up in the Champs Wear The Rings Tournament in Douglasville. The 15U went 14-12-2 for their season; they won the Lower Flight Championship in Champs Wear The Rings NIT. The 16U compiled a 16-11-3 worksheet. They were the Runner Up team in the Gold Division of the Triple Crown Summer Blowout.
The Travelers went from four teams to three for the 2017 season - 15U, 16U and 17U. The 15U went 9-2 for their season. They won both their initial tournament and the Matthew Jernigan Memorial Tournament. The 16U had a 5-3-1 worksheet. The 17U went 13-12 for the season; they emerged as Runners Up in the AAU Nationals at Dodgertown at Vero Beach, Florida.
Many Travelers signed baseball scholarships, and two former players even entered the professional ranks. The team has been ranked #1 in the nation on two separate occasions. Baseball America even rated the team as one of the "best programs of its kind" in the United States.
Through all of the numerous accolades, there was a constant - Discipline. The players for the Americus Travelers were held to a higher standard than the average young athlete. All players were required to sign behavior contracts prior to the season, and understood the importance of carrying themselves well in the community. A majority of the team's expenses were covered by monies donated and raised by the players and their parents. A registration fee covered the cost of the uniforms and a liability waiver was signed by each parent.
The Americus Travelers Baseball Club wound up building a solid reputation on the local, state, and even national levels. All coaches for the team were volunteers. What started as an alternative to recreation grew into a nationally elite program with a standard of excellence that applied both on the diamond and off. The Travelers hosted youth baseball camps in the past; the players were often seen at local youth league games cheering on the youngsters.