Former Ridgeland High School baseball standout J.D. Genter will be representing an area today that's far greater than the northwest corner of Georgia from which he comes.
For the third consecutive year Genter has been selected to play slowpitch softball for Team USA, which faces Canada in Border Battle III today at the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. EDT and will be televised by ESPN.
"You can't describe the feeling you get representing everybody out there," Genter said. "Everybody's behind you, just like in any other sport, because you have 'USA' across your chest."
The Border Battle series stands 1-1. The U.S. won 30-23 in 2009. Genter said he's been "sick for a year" since Canada pulled out a 30-29 victory in 2010.
"Last year's loss still weighs heavy in the hearts and minds of everyone involved, and Team Canada will be even more focused for this year's game," USA coach Steve Shortland said in an article earlier this year on usasoftball.com. "Accordingly, our 2011 roster represents the finest talent this nation has to offer, and I'm confident this phenomenal combination of 11 Team USA veterans and four newcomers is ready for the challenge.
"With the series tied, this year's event should be an epic battle. The only guarantee I'll make is we will prepare harder than we ever have for this year's game - that I can promise."
Genter played baseball for Chattanooga State after high school. His slowpitch career began to take root while he was in college. He would slip off to play weekend tournaments when time allowed.
Once he began playing more extensively, his dedication and improving play enabled him to advance through the levels. For the last few years he's played on teams ranked among the top five in the country.
The 15 selections leave their individual teams and come together to form the national team, which played its first exhibition this year June 24 in Bismarck, N.D. Another exhibition took place July 14 in Cincinnati.
Genter said the national team basically played some intrasquad-type games the last two days in Oklahoma City. In 2009, the Border Battle was the only game Team USA played.
"It's growing every year," said Genter, who plays infield and had four hits in each of the first two Border Battles. "One thing I really like is we actually get to show the country what softball is all about. A lot of people don't realize this level of softball is being played. They've been able to each year make it grow a little bit more. We're getting a lot more fan support."
Genter said he thinks ASA would like to see slowpitch become part of the Olympic Games, but with baseball and women's fastpitch being sports recently pulled from the Olympics, he isn't sure if it has much of a chance in the immediate future with the International Olympic Committee. For him, his only immediate concern regarding slowpitch softball is today's game and trying to regain the series lead.
"Of course I'm always going to say we should win," Genter said. "I'm very confident. Canada is always going to be tough. It should be a great ballgame. Hopefully we can come out with the victory."