SPRINGFIELD — The event was designed to celebrate first baseman/pitcher Matthew Ford and outfielder Timothy Burnsed’s selection of their next team.
Instead, the Effingham County baseball stars’ original team — their families — and other contributors to their success dominated the spotlight.
“First of all, I’d like to thank God because without Him I wouldn’t be standing here,” Ford said Thursday after signing a national letter of intent to attend East Georgia State College. “I would like to thank my mom and my dad for supporting me throughout the process, doing everything for me and being my mom and my dad.
“I’d like to thank my teammates for always supporting me and being like my best friends. I’d like to thank my coaches for being like a dad to me and always supporting me. I’d also like to thank my teachers, especially my math teachers.
“Go Rebels and go Bobcats!”
Ford’s comment about his parents, Dr. Yancy and Deidre Ford, and math teachers drew chuckles from the crowd in the Effingham County High School gym lobby. Burnsed’s remarks also drew laughs and a tear or two.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank the good Lord for giving me all my ability,” he said, “but I’d also like to thank Him for giving me (my parents) because — if most of y’all don’t know — my parents don’t even like (baseball).
“They’ve spent many summer days and many weekends where they’ve had days off — and they work each and every day because they work hard — but they spent them at the hot ball field watching me play ball and spent enough money for me to play. I am very, very grateful for that.
“Other than that, I’d like to thank the sport of baseball itself because it has allowed me to meet and make a lot of friends and a lot of family. I’d like to thank my coaches in between.”
Burnsed’s parents, Timmy and Marci, were deeply moved by his words. Their eyes moistened while listening to his expression of gratitude to them, his sister Brooks, and former coaches Rick Duke and Chad Jung.
“I am proud of him,” Timmy said. “He ain’t lying that I don’t care about .... I always hunted and fished and all that stuff. I never did the ball thing, you know, not that I was against it.
“I supported him doing it.”
Coach Chris Johnson, who led the Rebels baseball team from 2019-21, lauded Ford and Burnsed.
“One thing I will say about Matt is that he is a tremendous athlete and a competitor in his heart,” Johnson said. “He never gives up. There’s nobody you would want in a situation where you’ve got to have something done (more) than Matthew.
“But I will say this about Matthew — as good of an athlete as he is, as good of a player as he is in football and baseball — he’s a better person, which is the most important thing as you’re moving forward to me.
“As Timmy goes — and, you know, I’ve been doing this for 32 years — he is probably one of the top five athletes that I’ve had the opportunity to be around. The thing about it is — it is mostly God-given, but he has taken what God has given him and turned himself into the athlete that his is, which is a tremendous accomplishment for yourself.”
Effingham County athletic director Matt Huntley is delighted that the Ford and Burnsed will get to continue their baseball careers as Bobcats
“The two — I’ve kind of watched grow up and run around the Effingham County campus since they were young,” Huntley said. “It’s enjoyable to see them do this today and sign at the next level.”
New Rebels baseball coach Shane Ramsey has high expectations for both players.
“I’m also looking forward to see what your future holds — and it’s up to you,” he said. “You guys get to choose how successful you are.”