Friends, brothers-in-law lead teams to JUCO World Series

The Adam Thomas and Scot Hemmings families are having a reunion this week. But instead of doing in the Bi-City area, they are heading 1,700 miles west to Grand Junction, Colo.

Thomas is leading the Chattahoochee Valley Community College baseball team on its third straight trip to the Junior College World Series.

Hemmings is taking his Darton State (Albany, Ga.) team on its first trip to the world series.

In addition to the two being the best of friends, they are brothers-in-law. Hemmings is married to Thomas’ sister Amy.

Thomas counted at least 15 members of the two families who will be making the trip for the world series, which is scheduled to begin Saturday for both teams.

“It will both be great for the families and quite stressful for the families,” Thomas said Monday afternoon as his team went through its final practice before leaving on Tuesday.

Hemmings agreed.

“It is an unbelievable feeling. It is an honor to be going out to Grand Junction,” Hemmings said. “He has had a fabulous career. And it is special that both families will get to share this experience.”

CVCC and Darton are on opposite sides of the bracket but, if both teams stay in the winners bracket, they would meet on Wednesday, June 1. They could also meet at some point in the losers bracket.

“I hope we don’t play unless it is for the national championship,” Thomas said. “We have only played a handful of times, and that is because they were already on the schedule when he got his jobs. We don’t schedule games against each other.”

Long history together

Thomas graduated from Smiths Station, while Hemmings was a member of three state championships at Columbus High.

The two didn’t meet until after high school when Thomas went to purchase shoes at Below the Knee, a local shoe store, where Hemmings was working. The two had a conversation about baseball.

A short time later, Thomas’ sister, Amy, also visited the store.

“I met him the second time when Amy brought him around the house,” Thomas said. “I was like ‘hey, I know you.’ ”

“It is unbelievable that has been 20-something years ago.”

Their paths had crossed just shortly before that, Thomas reluctantly recalled. During the 1996 season, Thomas was a third-year sophomore catcher for CVCC, while Hemmings was a freshman at ABAC.

The two played against each other at CVCC. Hemmings was a good hitter and possessed good speed. That day he stole five bases off Thomas.

“I was a very good defensive catcher,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t hit a lick, so I took pride in throwing guys out. He abused me on the bases that day.”

Thomas’ playing career continued on at Montevallo. Hemmings was drafted in 1997 by the San Diego Padres. He played in the minors several seasons before deciding his playing days were done.

By then Thomas had returned to CVCC, first as B.R. Johnson’s assistant, then taking over the program in June 1999.

After Hemmings retired from his playing days, Thomas hired him as an assistant at CVCC.

They coached together for two years. In that second year, CVCC played in the ACCC championship game and set a school record for wins in a season.

“When I hired him, I have always been the pitching guy. I wanted an offensive guy,” Thomas said. “I wanted to give the keys to the offense and not worry about it. It was a perfect blend.”

Hemmings went on to coach at Andrew College in Cuthbert, Ga., and at Central High. He left Central and became Darton’s coach in 2012.

“I don’t know if we would have been friends if he had not met my sister, but — next to my wife and Dash (O’Neill, Thomas’ assistant coach) — he is my best friend. We talk nearly every day. It has been a friendship that has lasted for 20 years.”