Jeremiah Blanton, who started playing sports at the recreation level in Rome before starring at Coosa High and then Shorter, has been named the new Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Sports Manager.
“I don’t think we could have found a better person or candidate than JB,” RFPRA Director Todd Wofford says, using the nickname that parks and recreation staffers call Blanton. “He grew up in our programs and has worked for us for about 15 years. One of the best things about him is that you can see how much he cares about the kids and the programs.”
Growing up, Blanton played on local fields starting with t-ball. “I played all the baseball age groups starting when I was 7. I played baseball, football and basketball,” Blanton says.
When asked for some of his favorite moments about growing up and playing sports in Rome, a big smile crosses his face. “I remember we won the Santa Bowl when I played Mites (football). We dedicated that season to a classmate that passed away. That was really special,” he says.
He also mentions a trip to Grenada, Miss., for the world series and being a part of an all-star basketball team that captured a state title when he was 11 or 12.
“That basketball team was loaded with a lot of great players,” he says. “It’s funny because back when I was playing we were Georgia Craft, Nations Bank or Garden Lakes Supermarket teams, because they sponsored us.”
Blanton’s athletic days didn’t end at the recreation level. At Coosa High School, Blanton starred as a three-sport athlete, earning All-Area recognition in both football and baseball as a senior. He played those sports as well as basketball all four years for the Eagles.
Blanton then took his talents to Shorter where he played baseball all four years.
“In 1998, we were the conference champions and went to regionals,” Blanton says. He has another cool memory from his Shorter days that no one else can claim. “My senior year at Shorter in our first game we played against Lee University,” Blanton says. “In my first at bat, I hit a home run. That was the first home run hit at the new Ledbetter Complex.”
After some time working in schools and even coaching high school sports, Blanton moved to the recreation department and began work in the maintenance division in 2006. He served in various roles in that department until December 2019 when he moved to the sports side and became the assistant sports manager.
Although Blanton enjoyed keeping the parks and fields looking great, he says he felt a calling to get back to where it all started for him.
“I felt like I had a lot to offer on the sports side. I’ve always been a firm believer that we can’t make this go without the parks guys. I know how hard those guys have to work to get the fields and parks ready every day,” he says.
Blanton now moves into the sports manager role vacated by Rick Haase, who recently retired after more than 35 years. He’s focused on baseball and adult sports and making sure more kids get a chance to be a part of the various parks and recreation programs.
“I feel like sports give kids the opportunity to develop and grow. It’s not about the wins and losses at this age. It’s about developing kids and being taught the right way,” Blanton says. “We hope to be able to come out with some more videos and have more free clinics. We want to be able to get into the schools and maybe even take a day or so and teach kids how to shoot a basketball or hit a baseball.”
Sports isn’t just about youth either. Parks and recreation continues to try to restart a dormant adult sports program. Adult basketball is a few games into its season, and adult softball is currently registering. Getting those programs up and running is something Blanton really wants to see happen.
“What we really need for adult sports is for people to come in and register. We have seven teams in adult basketball and everything is going good so far. We’re aiming to do the same with adult softball,” he says. “I know a lot of people are hesitant to register, because we’ve talked about it in the past and haven’t been able to do it. We are doing it now, but we can’t have a league if we don’t have teams.”
Blanton’s phone lights up again and his eyes dart over to read the text. The new job comes with a lot of questions, emails, phone calls, texts and more, but he doesn’t want that to dissuade anyone from reaching out.
“I do want people to know I’ll listen to them, and I’ll talk to them. They may not always like the end results, but this is a process and we want the kids and the parents to have a good experience,” he says. “If there is anything I can do for somebody, I’m always glad to help. And if I don’t know the answer to the question, I’ll do my best to find the answer.”