Carter, Secret Service battle it out with Plains graduates -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Carter, Secret Service battle it out with Plains graduates

September 28, 2003

PLAINS - One might say Sunday was a perfect day to be outside. The South Georgia air was crisp and soaked with the aroma of freshly dug peanuts. The sky was a brilliant blue and cloudless. And, there was a softball game going on: a former President was the starting pitcher.

That would be the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, Plains' other claim-to-fame, besides peanuts, of course.

Families arrived early, bringing their own chairs and blankets for the perfect seat. Obviously, the Secret Service was there - but most were on the Plains High School softball field as teammates, not employees today, of Carter.

The enemy today, or at least the competition, were men just like 'Jimmy,' as he's called in his hometown. They were in yellow shirts sitting on benches beside first base. They were almuni of Plains High School.

One man, Bill McClung is used to being on the same team as Carter. He's lived in rural Sumter County for years and was the Plains Police Chief during Carter's bid for the White House.

"I've been playing against him for years in softball," McClung said. "He's a good pitcher and he's a good player. He plays the field real well."

There's not much in Plains besides the President and peanuts. It's clear this town, population 700, is driven by visitors anxious to catch a glimpse of the former Commander in Chief.

"I would say that the center for Plains life, besides the churches, has always been Plains High School," President Carter said.

Carter didn't play too bad, he said. Agents who normally watch his back, though, went to bat for him today. He walked the first batter, struck out and was thrown out.

"I blame it (striking out) on the sun," Carter said as he laughed. "When you look up at one of those high balls all you can see is the sun shining. That's my excuse."

There were other blunders, too. But these men say the game was about fun and bragging rights: not about who won the game but rather with whom they played the game.

"It doesn't happen to a lot of people so it's quite an honor for me," McClung said.

It was an honor for many, people in Plains said. Families out to enjoy a nice day went home knowing they were pinch hitters in history after Carter and his boys beat Plains 15-9.

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