Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County

Darton State College head baseball coach Scot Hemmings revealed that when he got an invitation from Tim Thomas two months earlier to speak to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County, “I was sitting on the phone thinking I don’t know what I’m going to talk about.” At the time his Cavaliers diamond squad was 3-9.

By the time day of the April 21 speaking engagement arrived, things had definitely turned around. The Darton baseball team had improved their record to 33-14 and had just set a school record for the most consecutive wins with a 17-game streak.

Hemmings, 36, is in his third season as head coach, leading the team to 85 wins in his first two seasons in Albany. He is a 16-year baseball veteran, having spent four years in the major leagues with the San Diego Padres organization before injuries forced his retirement from the pros and following that with 12 years of coaching at the high-school and college levels.

A graduate of Columbus High School, Hemmings is an Albany convert. “Albany’s been a huge blessing to our family (wife Amy and three children, ages 6,5, and 2), we’ve enjoyed it, we have a great church, Sherwood Baptist, we have great friends.”

Outside of winning ballgames, he sees it as part of the team’s mission to give back to the community. “We’re trying to do a lot of local outreach and really get involved in the community,” by doing volunteer service. Eight of the Cavalier players participated in the Dougherty County School System’s “Read Across America” this year and Hemmings and his staff have also held summer baseball camps and a coaches’ clinic for Sherwood Recreation. (Baseball camps this year are coming up June 9-13 and 16-20.)

He demands good behavior from his players, he said. “The two things we really bank on are discipline and character. I don’t have time to fool with antics, so we tell them from the get-go, you get in trouble and you’re not  going to be here very long. So I think that’s where we have our most success, is the guys understand what we’re about and what we’re going to do. We kind of bank on a program of discipline and character, how we carry ourselves, and that’s where we start, so I think that’s been a big part of ours success.”

That success has been not only for the team (ranked 17th nationally and second in its 10-school conference at this point) but personally for players. Thirteen players have gone on to “big-time Division One schools, that’s the guys that play on ESPN. I had two players play on ESPN last year, so people are leaving our program and going on and having success elsewhere, and that’s what it’s about, it’s about graduation and moving on.” 

Hemmings added, “One of the things I told my wife I wanted (was) I wanted to be the resource for baseball. I want the Little Leaguers to come out, I want to bring the coaches out.”

He lamented, however, that baseball has become an increasingly expensive sport to play. “Baseball has become such an expensive sport, it’s eliminated the poor families and it’s really eliminated the middle-class families,” due to costs of fees, insurance, uniforms, equipment, and training.

Hemmings praised the total package of Darton baseball. “If you take the 10 schools in our conference, and you take the communities, the facilities, and the facilities as the campuses go, Darton will rank as number one out of all 10 of those schools. Now ABAC’s got great campus and a school up in Atlanta, Georgia Perimeter College, has got a  little bit nicer baseball facility, but from a whole regional  standpoint,  our ranks within the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama facilities, we would actually rank in the top three or four. A lot of people don’t realize that around here.”  He credited former Darton president Dr. Peter Sireno with upgrading the baseball facilities and said interim president Dr. Paul Jones has been very supportive as well.

When recruiting players, Hemmings said, “We’re looking for two main characteristics in a player: can you really run fast and can you really throw hard. Those are the two things we really bank on. Speed and strength show up every day. We have five Division One finalists right now and our shortstop and a pitcher are also draft candidates.” Just before “move-in day” this year, Hemmings added, a player from Atlanta that had been signed by Darton changed his mind because the Boston Red Sox offered him a contract. “So we lost a kid to $90,000 before he even showed up to campus.” Another prospect went instead with a Division One school that offered him a scholarship and two more were picked up in the major league draft.

“So you take those four guys out of this year’s team, and this year’s team is great, but you give me those four guys and you’ve got an unbelievable team. So the level of play we’re able to do at Darton is unbelievable. A lot of people say, ‘Well, it’s only junior college. Well, this junior college is pretty good. We have five guys we’ve clocked at over 90 mph on the mound. That’s not to brag or anything like that, but those guys bring a high brand of baseball, and on any given day there might be two or three professional scouts at a game.”

Asked about scholarships, Hemmings explained, “We have a pot of money and that pot has to go to 24 players.” He added, “It’s a partial scholarship. The only way a guy could get a full scholarship is if he’s a very good player, a very good student, and a very poor person who got Pell Grant money.” Hemmings encourages parents of promising ballplayers “to try to balance it out. Some of the money you’re spending on baseball or travel ball, whatever, you could be putting that into a college fund” to help make up the difference between a scholarship and the full college cost.

Hemmings also said he will take “second chance” players on a very limited basis, one or two a year at the most. A second-chance player is someone who has been kicked out of another school for academic or disciplinary reasons. He cited the case of a player, who he declined to name, whose parents sat down with Hemmings and said, “Coach, you’ve got a history of straightening out careers. Will you straighten my son out? I said, ‘Will you let me straighten him out?’ They said, ‘Oh, yes sir!’ I said, ‘So you’re not going to get involved. I’ll straighten him out.’ Well, he’s the pitcher who signed for about 50 grand last year with the San Diego Padres. So yes, I will take a second chance guy, but I’ll only take two of those. You don’t want to have a full team of guys who cause way too many problems.”

The Darton Cavaliers baseball schedule is posted on the college’s website. A four-game series this weekend against  Georgia Perimeter College offers the squad a shot at taking over first place in their conference, said Coach Heming.

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Darton Cavaliers head baseball coach Scot Hemmings tells Kiwanis of Dougherty County members about the team and his approach to coaching. (Photo by David Shivers)

Coach Hemmings (far right) is greeted after the Kiwanis DoCo meeting by (from left) Larry Price, Chuck Darsey, and Doug Lorber. (Photo by David Shivers)

A photo album for pictures from our 2014 Kiwanis Art Contest has been started on our Facebook page. Sign up for Facebook, if you haven’t already, to check out some of the amazing elementary art work from the April 11 mall reception!

The Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County’s weekly meeting on April 14 was abuzz with the program of the day: bee-keeping.

Kathy Brinson, co-founder of the Sowega Beekeepers Club, spoke on a topic that is timely now that spring has arrived and honeybees are about their seasonal business. She touched on a number of different areas, including bees’ colony formation and structure, life cycle, function, and importance to humans.

Brinson said bee colonies, or hives, are superorganisms. “It acts as one organism, working together,” she said. The queen bee’s sole purpose is to lay eggs, which she does at a rate of 1500 to 3000 a day. The queen bee is cared for, including cleaning and feeding, by female worker bees. The third category of a hive is the male drone bees, which fertilize the eggs and also help protect against some parasites.

Brinson noted that bees swarming in early spring may be spotted in a tree forming a ball. At this point, she said, people shouldn’t be alarmed; they are not aggressive because they have not yet formed a hive.

“If they don’t have a hive to defend, they are not aggressive,” she said. But later, she cautioned, “If you disturb their hive, they will defend it.” Bees, when disturbed, communicate by emitting an alarm pheromone. “There are the guard bees, the bees that keep peace, and they’re going to send off a pheromone that says, ‘Danger, danger, let’s attack!’” When Brinson goes into her hives, she uses a hand-held smoker that puts out a “cool smoke” which serves to calm the bees, she said. She also wears protective clothing that makes her feel comfortable and calm among the bees, keeping her from making sudden movements or noises that might agitate them.

In feeding bees collect pollen, which provides protein, and nectar, which is a carb source. Nectar mixes with enzymes in a bee’s “honey stomach,” Brinson described, to formulate honey. They bring it back to the hive to deposit it in a comb. Initially it is quite watery, and the moisture must be evaporated to form the consistency of honey. Some bees fan the mixture with their wings to expedite the evaporation process.

The honeycombs are comprised of a wax-like substance called propolis, made from tree and plant resin. “It’s really, really sticky and it helps them knit their hive together,” said Brinson, and it can’t be broken apart without a special tool.

The queen lays eggs that are smaller than a grain of rice. They hatch into larvae, then progress to the pupae stage, and at two to three weeks emerge to begin foraging.

Most beekeepers are hobbyists or home beekeepers - Brinson, with three backyard hives, described herself as a hobbyist - and by definition have less than 25 hives. Commercial beekeepers often have from 25 to 399 hives, said Brinson, and some 1600 across the country have 300 or more, perhaps even thousands. Commercial beekeepers often hire their hives out to help pollinate crops such as watermelons, cantelopes, or blueberries, usually placing two hives per acre.

“One third of all food we eat,” said Brinson, “is directly or indirectly related to pollination by the honeybee. It increases the yield greatly…if we’re smart we need to be sure to help the bees along.”

In addition to crop pollination, honeybees provide honey for food as well as ingredients that may be used in medicines, cosmetics, and candles. She noted that honey has 1.5 times the sweetening power of sugar, so when cooking with it, use a mild-flavored honey, reduce liquid in the recipe by one-fourth per cup of honey, and decrease the cooking temperature by 25 degrees. She also said that due to honey’s acidity, some people add one-fourth teaspoon of baking soda per cup. Recipes using honey can be found online at www.honey.com (National Honey Board) or www.abfnet.org (American B. Federation).

Brinson said she leaves honey in the hive because bees need it to survive the winter. A standard bee hive with tens of thousands of bees requires about 60 pounds of honey for winter nourishment.

Brinson encouraged people who spot a ball of bees to let her know. “It costs about $80 for a three-pound package of bees, so beekeepers like to get swarms.” She added a disclaimer, though: the state Department of Agriculture discourages collecting swarms “if we don’t know where they came from” to prevent the hazard and spread of extremely-aggressive hybrid Africanized bees, also known as “killer bees.” These bees originated in Africa and were brought to Brazil in 1956 as part of an experiment. They migrated from there to Texas by 1990, were reported in Florida in 2005, and were discovered in Albany in 2010.

Brinson invited interested persons to come out for a Sowega Beekeepers Club meeting. They meet on the second Thursday each month at 6:30 p.m. in Chehaw park’s Creekside Center.

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Bottom photo: Kiwanians Tommy Gay and Greg Fullerton (foreground) examine a display frame of bees at work brought by Kathy Brinson to the Kiwanis DoCo meeting.  (Photo by David Shivers)

Top: Kathy Brinson ponders “to bee or not to bee”, with acknowledgment to Shakespeare, for her Kiwanis DoCo audience.

Larry Price was honored today by the presentation of a plaque denoting him as the recipient of a George F. Hixson Award from Kiwanis International. Larry has been a dedicated Kiwanian in Albany for almost 40 years. Congratulations, Larry!

Larry Price was honored today by the presentation of a plaque denoting him as the recipient of a George F. Hixson Award from Kiwanis International. Larry has been a dedicated Kiwanian in Albany for almost 40 years. Congratulations, Larry!

The Rev. Jim Bullion delivered a thoughtful devotional on the significance of Easter and the Passover for our April 7 meeting. Thank you, Father Jim!

The Rev. Jim Bullion delivered a thoughtful devotional on the significance of Easter and the Passover for our April 7 meeting. Thank you, Father Jim!

With spring underway, Dougherty County Extension Agent James Morgan spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on April 7 about “what’s going on right now in the landscape.” Morgan offered tips on fertilizing, weed and pest control, best products for particular situations, and watering. He recommended a couple of products for fire ants, but cautioned that certain insecticides should not be used in or around a vegetable garden. For fire ants among food plants Morgan recommended using an organic product. Vegetable-garden planting should be done after the last frost date, which hopefully will happen by mid-April. He also noted ph level soil testing is offered through the Extension office, located downtown at 125 Pine Avenue. Cost is $6 per sample and testing should be done in fall so that if lime needs to be applied it will have the winter months to act on soil acidity. Anyone with questions can contact Morgan at Cooperative Extension at 436-7216 or email at morganjl@uga.edu. Morgan has been with Extension in Dougherty County for about 10 years and previously served in Stewart County and Orangeburg County, SC.

The federal Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare, as it is often derisively referred to – continues to have an unclear future for both patients and care providers, the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County heard from a local medical-care administrator on March 31.

Bruce Trickle, CEO of Albany Internal Medicine, told club members at their weekly luncheon meeting that he was neither for nor against the ACA, but his comments veered more toward a negative perception of the controversial legislation.

Over the last five to 10 years, he said, there has been a change “from what I call the practice of medicine, taking care of patients, to more of a business of medicine, which includes taking care of patients, but we have to be very attuned to what’s going on in our business world, or we just don’t survive to take care of you.  It’s kind of scary to me. I’m not sure where we’re headed with the Affordable Care Act, or as we jokingly refer to it as the Unaffordable Care Act in the office.”

According to Trickler, under the law insurance companies can’t arbitrarily cancel policies but can raise rates by up to 350 percent, and “I don’t know too many small businesses that can afford that.”

As an alternative to the federal exchanges, some insurance carriers in the state such as Aetna, United Healthcare, or Humana are offering plans that have “some reasonable premiums as an alternative to Obamacare and general exchange plans,” said Trickle. “It’s advisable to check those plans out closely. Make sure it provides the physician you (want) to see and that the deductibles and co-insurance are acceptable to you.”

Albany Internal Medicine is not accepting “Obamacare plans due to business risks and it’s nothing to do with taking care of patients,” Trickle added. “We want to take care of patients, to continue to see the patients we currently are seeing who come to us for good care. But, we also are a business and we can’t afford the risk involved with some of these plans.” Many people who previously couldn’t afford insurance could end up with a premium-affordable but high-deductible plan and then be “less likely to cover their bills, and that’s a risk for a healthcare group like us.”

Another reason they decided against it, he added, is the administrative load that would be involved, which he estimated at 30 to 40 percent higher than present but with no added remuneration.

The ACA does have some good things, Trickle said, noting 100 percent coverage of preventive care visits and being able to see your physician, “though that is not always the case.”

“It’s change, but I guess we have to be accustomed to change. I’m not for or against the Affordable Care Act, but it’s got some change in it that’s going to be difficult,” said Trickle.

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Top: Albany Internal Medicine CEO Bruce Trickle speaks to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County about businesses posed by the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by David Shivers)

Bottom: Bruce Trickle (right) is greeted by Judge Baxter Howell (left) as Glenn Dowling looks on. (Photo by David Shivers)

 

The Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County awarded its fourth George F. Hixson Award of the club year on March 31, with long-time member Dr. Doug Lorber as the proud recipient. The Hixson Fellowship was created in 1983 by the Kiwanis International Foundation in honor of the first Kiwanis International president, who served from 1916-18. The award was presented by club president Lance Barnes. Other recipients since the new club year started October 1, 2013, are Todd Butler, Bill McDaniel, and Gail Carter. (Photo by David Shivers)