One final ride: Dukes, Hubbard and Swanson share the dugout together for the last time

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

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Callaway’s own Julian Dukes, Bryce Hubbard and Brantin Swanson shared the diamond together for one final time on Saturday as the trio took part in the Georgia Dugout Club All-Star games. It was a bittersweet reunion as the three played their final official game with Callaway last month and each walked the stage and received their diploma as well.

To get one last go with the fellas was a special occasion.

“Getting to strap up the cleats one last time with these guys was really cool,” Swanson said. “There’s no pressure, nothing on the line, just going out there and playing baseball like we were kids again.”

The teams were full of extremely talented players from across the state and the three fit right in. 

This also served as a chance to bring some of the most talented players and coaches from this area together. The three Callaway players were joined by coach Dusty Hubbard, two LaGrange High graduates — Robbie Parker and Tanner Langley — and former Troup High baseball coach Craig Garner.

“It was good, because I haven’t played with Tanner Langley since I was about 10. So that’s something different and having Robbie Parker out there too was special,” Hubbard said. “We’re all friends off the field of course.”

The three have practically grown up on the diamond together. Especially over these last few years as the Callaway baseball team grew tighter than ever.

“I remember ever since we were little eighth graders, leaving the middle school every day to come to practice at the high school, you know, just thinking, when are we ever going to become seniors and now it’s just real life,” Hubbard said. “We made a lot of memories in that time.”

The trio’s paths will diverge from here. Dukes is saying goodbye to the sport as he heads to West Georgia Tech and prepares for a future as a welder. Hubbard will be taking his talents to the University of North Georgia to continue his baseball career while Swanson is still chasing a chance to play in college and hopes to have his immediate future settled in here soon. It has been a long journey to get where they are now, blood sweat and tears.

“’It is a pretty good feeling because you know you put in the work at practice and you show up day in and day out and give it everything you have, so when they post if you make a first-team all-region or all-star teams you see your name on there it’s special,” Duke said. “It just shows that all the work you put in at practice and the offseason is seen and the work you put in it really paid off.”

For Dukes, this past Saturday served as a bittersweet goodbye to a sport he has loved so much to.

“This was my last time ever doing it, but I’m glad I got to do it with those two guys,” Dukes said. “I just went out there and tried to cherish every moment.”

All three of these players are team-first guys. Wins and losses are the only statistics that matter to them, but when the season ends, they appreciate that all their hard work did not go unnoticed when they received accolades.

“It means a lot, especially being selected to play with some of the best talent in Georgia,” Swanson said. “It really speaks a lot for our program, for our coaches, but you know, for ourselves as well.

“It shows that everybody else sees the hard work you’ve put in, the preparation, the time and the dedication you’ve put into being the best player you can be.”

Getting to play in the All-Star games was not the only accolade any of these three received as all three earned a spot on the Region 5-2A All-Region teams.

Hubbard was named co-player of the year for the region and led the Cavaliers in batting average (.413), hits (31), RBIs (31) and stolen bases (10) while only taking three strikeouts all season. Hubbard didn’t just get it done at the plate as he led the pitching staff with a team-low ERA Of 1.25 while leading the team in strikeouts (78) while going 6-2 during his final season in red and black.

Dukes hit .304 with 19 RBs to earn a spot on the first team as a catcher while Swanson earned the nod as a pitcher despite splitting time on the mound and at first base. Swanson went 4-3 with an ERA of just 2.64 and was second on the team in RBIs (21) as a senior.

The trio were true stars on the field but were also fantastic representatives of the program off the field. Even as they head their separate ways, they will be a part of the Cavalier Brotherhood for life.