The Georgia Dugout Club will be hosting their annual All-Star game this weekend at Mercer University. Two members of the Statesboro Blue Devils were invited to play Saturday as senior shortstop Ames Rackleff and senior catcher J.D. Kaiser will be suiting up one last time.
This year Statesboro coach Jim Simmons was slated to be one of the assistant coaches in the game. Simmons passed away this spring and Hank Aldridge of the Georgia Dugout Club invited Crawford Simmons to serve as an assistant coach in his father’s place.
"Today was the first time since 2015 that I have put on a baseball uniform,” said Simmons. “I wore the Statesboro blue through 2009, and then Kansas City blue from then until I hung things up in the spring of 2015.”
Simmons actually played in the All-Star game himself back in 2009. This time around he will be wearing his father's number 39 instead of the 32 he wore in high school.
“It feels good to put a uniform on again even though it’s a little strange,” said Simmons. “It’s definitely a little different putting on my dad’s number 39. I am extremely proud and honored to be able to wear my father’s uniform. I know how much coaching meant to him and I’m thankful to Hank Aldridge for giving me this opportunity.”
Simmons was drafted in the 14th round by the Kansas City Royals in 2009. The lefty went through Tommy John surgery in 2012 and then retired from baseball in 2015 to pursue a collegiate golf career.
Having gone straight from high school to the pros Simmons had four years to play any sport besides baseball in college. After putting in a lot of time on the golf course with some serious work Georgia Southern coach Carter Collins offered him a spot on the Eagle golf team.
After his playing days concluded in 2019 Collins asked Simmons to join him as an assistant coach at Georgia Southern where he has been the past two seasons helping the Eagles to an NCAA berth this year.
Being an assistant coach at Georgia Southern provided some unique hurdles for Simmons to jump through in order to be able to participate in the All-Star game this weekend.
“I was excited to be able to honor my dad in this way but didn’t really think about the ramifications of being a collegiate coach too,” said Simmons. “The restrictions involved in doing this are that I am not allowed to wear any Georgia Southern gear for one. I am not allowed to really do any kind of coaching, and I am not allowed to report back to any of the baseball coaches on what I see. It is more of an honorary position.”
In keeping with NCAA regulations Simmons hasn’t even spoken with the two Statesboro players on his squad, both of whom are excited to play another game and to have Crawford there in the dugout
“It’s always an honor to be selected to play in a game such as this one,” said Kaiser. “It feels good to know people think that highly of me as a baseball player. Seeing Crawford wearing coach Simmon’s jersey will hit me pretty hard. It’ll remind me of all of the things I have learned from coach Simmons.”
“It’s truly an honor to be selected to play in this All-Star game to represent God, my family, coaches and teammates,” said Rackleff. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was younger to be able to take my talents and hard work to the next stage. I can’t wait to see great competition and to get to play more baseball. I was also very excited when I heard about Coach Simmons son, Crawford being an assistant coach as well. Coach Simmons was a huge part of my baseball career and I have also become a friend of Crawford’s as well. To be able to play for one more Simmons one more time would be awesome.”.
Rackleff, Kaiser and Simmons are all a part of the Southeast Georgia All-Star team and will play Saturday at 12 and 5 p.m. at Mercer University.