Welcome to Baseball City 2012

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Avon Park baseball

Photograph By Daniel Bedell

In 2012, photojournalist Daniel Bedell set his sights on Avon Park, which is about as central Florida as you can get. It sits roughly 100 miles from either coast or from any major city. Since being settled in 1884, it has had zero celebrity cacheexcept when it comes to baseball. In the late 1920s, Avon Park was the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Legends of what Babe Ruth did when he came through town have been passed down through the generations. Perhaps the Babe left a little baseball magic behind, because the sport thrived. The high school team plays on the same field that the Cardinals called home and has won eight state championships since 1944.

Baseball in Avon Park is a source of pride: The city has 14 fields, as well as dozens of sandlots and backyard backstops. Everyone pitches in to make the popular youth leagues possible. Parents, coaches and siblings run concessions; civic leaders call the play by play. Beyond organized youth leagues, you can find groups of people out on any weekend or evening at some local field playing a game or practicing. In a town that doesnt have much to show off, the baseball diamond is its crown jewel.

In the photo, two young players work on their hitting at the Charles R. Head Field batting cages. Tyler Young takes batting practice from Coach John Beers while Adarius Council waits his turn. Both play on the Florida Flash, a travel team started by former pitcher Tom Flash Gordon.