The most intriguing aspect of Thursday’s rivalry tilt between Cairo and Thomasville won’t be between the bases. It’ll reside in the dugout.
Coaches Ron Best and Erik McDougald will renew their 24-year relationship when the Bulldogs and Syurpmakers meet. The pair’s link was fused in the summer of 1990 when McDougald had just graduated from Thomas County Central, where Best had assumed the baseball coaching position after a stint at Westover.
Best was working to establish a summer program but was short on players, so McDougald, whose younger brother remained a Yellow Jacket, joined in preparation for his upcoming stint at ABAC.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me to be perfectly honest,” McDougald said. “I learned what it was like to play baseball for a serious baseball coach.”
Best’s impact on Thomasville’s coach continues to carry over. McDougald said he employs various coaching tactics from Best through his short time under Cairo’s current coach.
“A lot of what I do and know has his fingerprint etched,” McDougald said.
But the bond didn’t end there.
McDougald later coached Best’s son, Jayson, in his early years at Thomasville.
“I’ve been around the McDougalds for some time. They are a great family,” Best said. “We’ve just kind of stayed in touch over the years. We’re friends first and opponents second. He’s a great guy and I respect a lot what he’s done over there at Thomasville High.”
The gloves will be off, however, once first pitch is underway in Thursday’s tilt. It’s simply in the competitive nature of these two coaches that have become ingrained in the fabric of South Georgia baseball.
Thomasville is coming off a 1-0 loss on Tuesday to defending 1-AA champ Berrien, and looking to salvage momentum before Friday’s region tilt with Brooks County. McDougald said he will use Thursday’s nonconference match to tweak various adjustments to his lineup and bullpen.