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The Shelby County 13-year-old Babe Ruth all-star baseball team will be playing for a state title beginning next week, but it will also be playing for Donnie Mills.
Mills, who was going to coach the squad, died suddenly June 22 at age 48. His youngest son, Tannor, is a member of the team.
Mitchell Tinsley, Tim Warford and Coty Minnis will collectively stand in for Mills and guide the all-stars next week when they compete in the East Kentucky State Tournament. Shelby County plays the tourney’s first game at 6 p.m. Monday against Garrard County at the Ward Correll Sports Complex in Somerset.
“Donnie was overly excited about being the head coach of the thirteen-year-old all-stars. He spoke very highly of them, and loved them, and looked forward to coaching them in the state tournament this year,” Tinsley said. “We are coaching, and the kids are playing, in memory of our wonderful coach and friend.”
Mills, who was a 1983 graduate of Shelby County High School and lived in Waddy, volunteered at the Shelby County Parks system for 18 years coaching baseball.
“Donnie loved Shelby County baseball, no matter what school it was, or what program it was,” Tinsley said. “Donnie was one of the most positive men to be around, he always helped. He was a great coach, friend, father and husband and he’s greatly missed.”
Mills’ oldest son, Nolan, a former player at SCHS and for the Shelbyville American Legion Post 37 team, has been helping out at practice, as has Josh Collins, father of all-stars Marcus and Caleb Collins, whose youngest son is battling a very serious illness, according to Tinsley, as the entire team has rallied together.
“I’m very proud of the way they’ve handled the circumstances and been there for one another,” Tinsley said, adding that the squad has embodied Mills’ mantra of “God, family and baseball.”
The team includes six players – Mills, Grant Early, Michael Lonak, Tyler Ritchey, Will Stivers and Hunter Warford - who were 12-year-old all-stars last year.
“They’re a very young group, very inexperienced,” Tinsley said. “One of the keys will be pitching. I think they do have some quality arms to be able to play in the state tournament.”
For that Tinsley will look to the Collins twins, Mills, Lonak and Kennley Ballinger, among others, on the mound.
If Shelby County wins its first game in the eight-team double-elimination tournament it will play at 6 p.m. next Thursday. If it loses its first game it will play at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Kennley Ballinger, Caleb Collins, Marcus Collins, Quentin Cox, Grant Early, Michael Lonak, Tannor Mills, Ethan Pruitt, Noah Reeves, Tyler Ritchey, Joseph Sheeley, Will Stivers, Hunter Warford.
Coaches: Mitchell Tinsley, Tim Warford, Coty Minnis.