Sports talk Thursday with Lauren Hunter-Not-so-little league

Featured Stories, Parks and Recreation, Sports

This past weekend I had the opportunity to cover the 12U Pre-All-Star Diaz Classic at Fannin County Park as an associate broadcaster and producer.

I would like to begin this post by saying how impressed and amazed I was at the talent of these young men who played in the tournament. I love baseball and I’ve spent several summers working around it, but most of my experience comes from the minor league level.

With that being said, I know I watched the stars of tomorrow this weekend.

To elaborate more on what I meant by that previous statement, here are some plays that I witnessed: Noah Gutillo, who is #7 for the 12U Gilmer Bobcats, hit two inside-the-park home runs during the first two games the team played. Owen Nolan, #7 for the 12U Towns County Indians, made an awesome barehanded catch at shortstop for an out at first base. Dawson Devane, #14 for the 12U Clay County Swarm, threw out the runner at third from catcher to get the final out that won his team the championship.

Dawson Devane, #14 for the Clay County Swarm, played an awesome game on Sunday!

The list goes on and on. There were plenty of singles, several doubles and even a few triples. A couple more home runs were sprinkled in there as well. There were fantastic plays with great catches at shortstop and the outfield. Certainly there never was a dull moment. You would think a team was defeated early on, but they would give it all they had to either close the gap or come back completely.

The very first game we covered on Thursday was between the Fannin County Rebels and Clay County Swarm. By the end of the first inning, Fannin had put nine runs on the board. My head said there was a slim chance Clay County could come back, my heart secretly hoped they would (I love a good comeback), and my eyes hadn’t seen anything yet. By the end of the game the final score was 11-10 Clay County. This game set the standard for what the rest of the weekend would look like, and Clay County would go on to win the championship.

When I say that this game would set the standard for the rest of the weekend, I mean that there were numerous games where one team would pull ahead but the other would fight to come back. BKP and I agreed that you couldn’t look away from these games, because if you did then you’d miss something important.

One thing that I love about youth tournaments along with watching the future talent are the communities that come out to rally around them. There were numerous times I would look behind me to see a ballpark full of families and fans. People of all ages came out to see these guys give it their all. Families set up tents to stay cool in the summer sun, grandparents brought seat cushions to stay comfortable, and younger siblings chased each other through the crowds. It was a beautiful thing.

One of the things that I love most about youth league baseball is the community it creates- even of players from the opposing sides!

Going back to the athletes, I could tell that each of them took their games seriously. Another great thing about this age and level is seeing where the players are as far as developing their skill set. At this age level, runners are allowed to take lead offs from base and steal before the ball gets over the plate. Pitchers are continuing to develop their deliveries and the umpires call balks. Each player is also tailoring their batting stance to themselves. They’re only a couple of years away from being in high school, and for those who are really serious then it’s time to start thinking about college and getting recruited.

I think from the examples above it’s not hard to figure out why I decided to call this post not-so-little league. These guys work hard day in and day out to put it all on the field. For those who see it from the outside looking in, there’s not much to a bunch of twelve-year-olds hitting a ball around. But for those on the inside looking out, there’s not much GREATER than that.

Sports talk Thursday with Lauren Hunter

Featured Stories, Sports

About five years ago I told my dad, who is one of my biggest fans but also one of the most blunt people you’ll ever meet, that I wanted to be the first female head coach in the NFL.

“You can’t do that, Lauren,” he said.

“Why?” I argued.

I was expecting some drawn-out response about how I didn’t know enough about football.

“Because you can’t go in the men’s locker room,” he said flatly.

Ah, I hadn’t thought of that.

That was my senior year of high school, and never did I think I would be where I am now.

I grew up an UGA fan; my grandad attended college there in the ’60s and the red and black passed down into my veins. I learned to spell Georgia by chanting the fight song in my head (I still do subconsciously whenever I have to write it out!) I had an UGA cheerleader outfit and one of my baby pictures has me holding a stuffed bulldog. One of my nana’s fondest memories is of dancing around the living room with me as an infant when Georgia scored a big touchdown against Georgia Tech. I’ve never considered myself athletic, but I believe I owe a lot of my passion for sports to Papa Skip and Nana.

Papa Skip, Nana, my momma and I at the Georgia v. Florida game in 2017

Flash forward a few years and the first time I stepped foot on a sideline was as a cheerleader for the 8th grade Mill Creek rec football league. Cheerleading was not for me, and within a year I traded in pom poms for a six-foot flag pole as a member of the Mill Creek High School Colorguard.

In high school I lived for Friday night lights, and I have many fond memories of screaming myself hoarse for the Hawks while in the stands with the marching band. It was a well-known fact that I was the most spirited person in the band when it came to football, and while my coach would be yelling at me to pay attention during our warm-ups I’d be busy trying to figure out how much yardage we’d gotten from the last pass.

I guess my fellow classmates took note of my love for the game as well, because they voted me their Homecoming Queen my senior year. That is still one of my all-time favorite memories from high school- hearing my name called while standing on the 50 surrounded by family and friends.

My senior year of high school I was elected Homecoming Queen. This was the moment after my name was called. Look at my dad’s face!

I graduated from Mill Creek in 2015 but I had a hard time staying away from Markham Field. The University of North Georgia doesn’t have a football team, and Mill Creek decided to get really good the year after I left (this was the fall of 2015, the year they got knocked out by Colquitt County one round before the state championship.)

In the spring of 2016 I heard of an opportunity to work for the Gwinnett Braves, Triple-A minor league affiliate for the Atlanta Braves. Needing a summer job but hoping to avoid retail, I took it. I spent the next two summers as a Guest Relations Representative scanning tickets and welcoming fans. In addition to my already-sound knowledge of football, I learned all I could about America’s favorite pastime and a new love was born.

I spent one more summer at Coolray Field before graduating college, and this time it was as a member of the Promotional Team. That may be the most fun I ever had at work. Our team set up the on-field promotional games, signed up contestants, sold 50/50 raffle tickets and overall worked to make sure people had a good time. I certainly did- the memories I made with my team that year will forever be some of my favorites.

For a while I told people that I wasn’t interested in sports journalism, but the Lord as he fortunately often does had other plans. I got the opportunity to intern with the UNG Athletic Department my senior year of college, and I left Gwinnett County to plant some roots in the North Georgia mountains.

I worked for the Gwinnett Braves (now Gwinnett Stripers) for three seasons. Here I’m in my third season as a member of the Promo Team.

Two months ago I still wasn’t certain that I’d ever work in sports again, but when baseball started back up I knew I couldn’t live without it. I was fortunate enough to find an opportunity to apply with, and even more fortunate to get an offer. And here we are.

I don’t tell you all this to brag on my accomplishments or give you some long-winded biography. I want to be just as much a part of your community as you all are now a part of my daily life. When I come to your sideline I want to know each of you and each of you know me. Part of being a great sports reporter is establishing a relationship with your team and community. Part of that relationship includes establishing trust, and how can you can trust someone if you don’t even know them?

One of the biggest reasons I keep working in sports is because of the the communities they create and the people I get to meet. There’s something about having a team to rally around that gets inside of you and never leaves. The people I have met so far and the connections I have made are priceless and will forever be a part of who I am and a big reason for why I do what I do.

So here’s to the journey ahead, and here’s to memories that are yet to be made and the relationships yet to be formed. I can’t wait North Georgia!

Lauren Hunter

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When it comes to sports coverage if it is happening in North Ga, Team FYN Sports is #AllOverIt


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Join us on the sidelines for Friday Night Lights as a member of our sports crew!


GREAT opportunities for:

  • Internship in either high school or college 
  • Part-time and/or full-time work
  • Experience in sports reporting at the local level!


Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Post sports schedule(s) to our site.
  • Commit to an entire season of that sport.
  • Be prepared to cover all home and away games. Transportation is not provided.
  • If there is a game you cannot make it to for scheduling reasons you must let management know it 36 hours in advance. Arrive at the sporting event/game a minimum of 30 min before it begins.
  • Postgame updates before, during and after the game on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Create a “hype” video clip of the team warming up, running out. starting kick off, etc (Using Magisto or Quick Story). Post this to social media.
  • Take notes and pics during the sporting event/game.
  • Write an article and post it on our website in the correct county under TeamFYNSports.
  • Share the link and all pictures taken from the event on our TeamFYNSports Facebook.
  • Pick a player of the week (Football ((different player each week)) & Basketball ((one boy and one girl player each week))
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  • College signings
  • Follow up story once student-athlete is attending college and playing sport there.
  • Coaching staff changes

About Team FYN Sports:

Team FYN Sports is the fastest-growing sports network in North Georgia and western North Carolina. Team FYN Sports is the sports division of media outlet Fetch Your News ( FYN covers a dozen counties total, ten in North Georgia and two in North Carolina. 

If interested in this opportunity, please contact Lauren:

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Sports talk Thursday with Lauren Hunter-Beware the foul ball


Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb is currently on the IL after taking a line drive to the head on Saturday. But not just any line drive- a 102 mph ball directly off the bat.

My first reaction to hearing about the hit was shock- then amazement when I saw that not only did he take the hit, he walked off the field by his own power. I don’t know about you- but that probably would’ve been it for me.

Reports came out that Newcomb was doing well with no serious symptoms. However as we know from recent research with concussions and head injuries, it’s better not to take any chances.

Obviously the incident with Newcomb was not from a foul ball, but it has gotten me thinking about my experience in baseball with foul balls. Baseball fans are no strangers to ducking from a stray ball every now and then.

Sean Newcomb getting checked out by Braves staff after getting hit on Saturday. Credit: Yahoo! Sports

So the question I want to pose here is this: what added precautions should parks take, if any, to make baseball safer?

It’s not a new topic. It’s a question that everyone asks any time there’s another incident at a game where a fan is struck by a foul ball or flying bat. In fact, in May of this year a foul ball off the bat of the Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a young girl in the stands. Although reports said that the girl seemed alert and in no serious danger, the incident caught the attention of the MLB and Almora Jr. was visibly upset the rest of the game.

According to ABC News, in December 2015 the MLB issued recommendations that parks put up netting which “shields from line-drives foul balls all field-level seats that are located between the near ends of both dugouts … and within 70 feet of home plate.”

However based on the wording of this quote, the netting was only a recommendation.

During my time at Coolray Field with the Gwinnett Braves there were countless a times a foul ball made its way into the stands. I can recall several times where fans were hit, and even one instance where a staff member got struck. I myself got bopped by one the year before I started working there, although it was not near as fast or serious as some of the others.

Some park-goers might argue that netting or other protective barriers should be ALL around the park. Others will say that obvious places, like right behind home plate or down along the baselines, should be shielded but others are not necessary.

As for myself, I agree with the latter position. If you’re sitting directly behind home plate and a foul ball comes off the bat and directly behind the batter, there’s nothing you can do in the almost-instant amount of time that ball comes at you. In this case, not only is netting the best solution, it’s the ONLY solution.

Same goes for, at least in my opinion, along the baselines where dugouts are located and at least halfway down depending on the ballpark. If memory serves me correctly at Coolray Field the netting stops at the end of the dugouts and gives fans along the rest of the baseline a good view at a safe distance.

An example of a warning sign at Fenway Park. Love the directness! Credit: MPR News

Of course no matter where you sit at a ballpark there’s always a slight chance a ball can reach you. That’s why at most, if not all, ballparks there’s a warning to fans before the game to watch for balls and other flying objects. At SunTrust Park there are signs placed up in the stands with a similar warning. Such is the best way to protect parks from legal trouble while not angering fans who want to view a game without a net in front of them.

Another point to consider is that if there is netting all around a field, there’s not a chance to get a game ball. Baseball fans of all ages love to catch a ball at the game, and it’s even more thrilling if it comes off the bat of your favorite player. There’s no need to sacrifice a great game experience for a potential safety concern.

The best way to protect yourself at a baseball game is to be aware of your surroundings. I’ll admit that part of the reason I got hit was because I wasn’t paying attention. I understand that even the quickest human reflexes may not be enough to stop a flying baseball. But I was not doing myself any favors by not watching the ball when it came our way. If you purchase a ticket in an area where there is not protection, then you are responsible for being aware of the potential threat.

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Rebels’ Grant Baker Signs Collegiate Letter Of Intent


It was a very important day for Fannin County High School Senior Grant Baker and his family.  With his mother Linda and his father Brandon at his side, Grant took his place at the table to sign his National Letter of Intent. His choice for furthering his education was Point University in West Point, GA.  Known as the Skyhawks, Point University is a NAIA private Christian college in the Appalachian Athletic Conference with universities as Reinhardt in Waleska, GA. and Bryan College in Tennessee.


In Attendance for the ceremony were School Administrators, Coaches, teammates, and family all looking on in excitement and support for Baker as he continues his education and do one thing he loves, that is to play the game of baseball.  Grant Baker has played this game most all his life starting in recreation ball through Fannin Co. Recreation Department to present where he is finishing his high school career with the Rebels.  In the last three years as a Rebel, Baker has won 11 games and pitching 109 innings with 87 strikeouts and a earned run average right at 3.00.  Baker helped lead the Rebels to their first playoff appearance in several years after the 2017 regular season and is competing hard to do the same in the 2018 season.

His High School Accolades include the 2015 JV Rebel Award and the 2017 Fannin Co. Pitcher of the Year.  Baker also has played travel baseball for the East Cobb Black Knights out of Marietta, GA where he was named to the Perfect Game All-Tournament Team 9 consecutive times.

Congratulations to Grant Baker and his family on this great opportunity in continuing his education and growing in to the man he wants to become.

See the full video of this event below:

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