Baseball is no doubt the sport that has a grip on the town of Hazlehurst, Georgia and surrounding Jeff Davis County.
The people of Jeff Davis County hold their high school team as firm as Nolan Ryan held the red stitches of a pearl white baseball. This past May, the Yellow Jackets returned that deep devotion when Coach Paul Glass’ team brought home the AA State Championship. The first state title in school history and certainly the way senior pitcher Cody Ogilvie wanted to end his career.
Growing up in Jeff Davis County, boys have a myopic vision of baseball. They have seen good teams and players and know the expectations that people have when they show some diamond prowess.
“I started playing baseball when I was old enough to drag a bat around at the age of three,” said Ogilvie. “It all started playing mini baseball games in my Granny’s house until I was able to start playing Tee-Ball at age five.”
One season of middle school basketball was the only interruption in a baseball only career. Ogilvie understood where his true love and loyalty was: On the diamond of dirt.
“Every kid in Jeff Davis that grows up playing baseball dreams of playing for Jeff Davis in high school,” he said. “When you finally are able to play on that field you really understand the expectations that everybody has for you.”
He decided to fully dedicate himself to baseball, which was when Ogilvie fell in love with being a pitcher. Entering high school, Ogilvie brought a nice 81 MPH fastball, but entered his season with a blistering 92 MPH after going through the hard work of becoming a student of the game.
The Yellow Jackets pulled off 20 win seasons every year leading up to Ogilvie’s senior year. However, the wins didn’t really mean that much, because after a few big wins during the season the Yellow Jackets would end up making a second round exit in the state playoffs.
“All of us seniors talked at the end of last season and agreed that we wanted that ring and we were going to do whatever it took to get it,” he said. “Just making the playoffs wasn’t an option to us. I really worked on becoming a stronger pitcher and learning new pitches for my senior season.”
Jeff Davis put the work in and did everything to make sure they avoided the pitfalls that come from a long season. Tough non-conference losses and injuries made the Yellow Jackets find a resolve that would become the tether that would pull them through the state tournament.
“After the first few weeks of the season, already losing two of our eight seniors due to injuries, the remaining seniors knew we were playing for our brothers,” said Ogilvie. “We played the toughest teams Coach Glass could find and it helped us get ready for the tough region we play in. We saw good pitching and hitters all season.”
Ogilvie and his Yellow Jackets saw that first shimmer of a gold championship ring in the Elite Eight against Rockmart.
As the championship brackets started to be realized, the Yellow Jackets would end up in a historic venue not far from the friendly confines of Hazlehurst. Jeff Davis and neighboring teams Savannah Christian, Pierce County and Wayne County all played championship series in Savannah’s Grayson Stadium. The same stadium where Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson had patrolled the outfield.
“It wasn’t surprising at all to see South Georgia represented like it was,” said Ogilvie. “I grew up playing against the boys from Pierce and Wayne and they always had good teams.”
When the Yellow Jackets were starting to come into their own, Ogilvie started to thrive on the mound.
“I had found all of my pitches (fastball, slider, and curveball) by then so I felt like a dominant pitcher. I could throw any pitch in any count which made me a better pitcher. I tried to never show frustration on the mound because once a pitcher does that he is defeated. You have to remain emotionless on the mound and just pitch.”
Jeff Davis was able to ride its winning streak and surge through a sweep of Elbert County, collecting an AA State Championship on the way.
“The final inning of game two was my favorite memory of it. I was in the dugout resting in case of a possible closing situation came up on the mound. All of us in there were standing on the edge of the dugout and yelling every pitch. Then once the final out was made the race to the mound for the dogpile began. The moment in that sprint to the mound is a moment I’ll never forget. I hope my legacy is left to never quit competing. No matter what the situation is you got to keep fighting and competing.”
Ogilvie is getting ready to add a new chapter to his baseball story as he moves to pitch for the University of North Georgia.
“I hope to gain some velocity and work with my off speed pitches in efforts to help in any way I can at UNG,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of such a successful team and great program.”
Finishing on top
By W. John Wood