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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Young Harris College is a Methodist church-affiliated college located in the North Georgia mountains along the border with North Carolina. It was founded in 1886 and presently has an enrollment of 1,204 students in a primarily liberal arts curriculum. One of the more specialized degree programs it offers is in Appalachian Studies and Community Engagement, as the college takes very seriously its mission of improving the quality of life for the people of Appalachia.
The Young Harris athletic teams compete under the name of the Mountain Lions, as the campus is surrounded by the some of the highest elevations in the state of Georgia. The Mountain Lions are a member of the Peach Belt Conference (PBC), which includes the University of North Georgia, Georgia College and State University, Clayton State University, Augusta State University, Armstrong State University, Georgia Southwestern University as well as schools in South Carolina and North Carolina.
Home field for the Mountain Lions is Zell Miller Field, which is named for Zell Miller, a Young Harris alumnus who served for two terms as Georgia Governor and one term in the United States Senate representing Georgia.
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Zell Miller Field has one concession stand, which is located on the exterior portion of the bleachers. It has a small selection of food items, but they are available at very reasonable prices. A sampling of the prices includes soda ($2), bottled water ($1.50) hot dog ($2), candy ($1), and popcorn ($2). A large number of fans choose to sit on a hill overlooking the right field line, and outside of the stadium. Many of these fans bring coolers with food and drinks to enjoy throughout the game.
Zell Miller Field's setting is picturesque. Both the right field line and the area behind the bleachers are in the shadow of some of Georgia's prettiest mountains. The area behind the outfield wall features a small creek with a stone bridge connecting the athletic complex to the academic campus.
The stadium is symmetrical with measurements of 335 feet down the lines and 406 feet to straightaway center. The seating area of the stadium features all chair back seating and also is covered by a roof to keep the sun (or snow at times) off the fans. The bleachers are elevated above the field providing excellent sight lines. The seating also stretches from dugout to dugout, providing visiting fans with their own cheering area.
There are not a lot of bells and whistles at Zell Miller Field as this is a small, church-affiliated school. Baseball is a sign that spring is on the way for these fans, who weather the most snow of any geographic area in Georgia each winter. Just watching the game without all the frills found at larger schools is just fine with the Young Harris faithful. It also offers them a chance to chat with former Governor Miller, who often attends the games. He is an alumnus of the college, played baseball here as a student, and even taught classes at the college after he retired from the political arena.
The town of Young Harris surrounds the campus and is basically a home to the college and a center of recreational activities related to the mountains and lakes in the area. Many people from the Atlanta area have their weekend getaway homes nearby. In addition to hiking, mountain climbing and fishing, there is a very vibrant boating community on nearby Lake Chatuge, which straddles the Georgia-North Carolina border.
Lodging facilities are plentiful, as the town caters to weekend visitors year round and it is especially busy during leaf peeper season in the fall. Among the nicer options are the Holiday Inn Express and the Brasstown Valley Resort, while many people take advantage of the hundreds of cabins available in the area for a more natural experience.
Young Harris also features some wonderful dining options, including the Copper Door Restaurant, Brother's at Willow Ranch, and Enrico's. Shopping in the area is known for antiquing finds, as well as mountain arts and crafts. Young Harris is a great getaway location from the big city, where you can fish, hike or enjoy nature in the morning and catch a ballgame in the afternoon.
Due to its remote location in a very mountainous area, activities at Young Harris College are very well attended by both the student body and the locals. The cost to attend is very small and almost everyone in attendance knows the Mountain Lion players on a first name basis. There are also many retirees who have chosen the mountains for their getaway homes and their love of the game goes back for generations. They usually can be found sitting together at the games and shouting encouragement to the players and some good natured barbs aimed at the umpires. Young Harris is a church-affiliated school, and you will not likely experience trash talking between opposing fans.
Young Harris is a two hour drive from either Atlanta or Chattanooga. Despite its remote location, the town and the college are readily accessible through a variety of routes that will not require you to follow mountainous roads with hairpin turns. One of Governor Miller's major accomplishments was the building of the Appalachian Developmental Parkway. This four lane road (Highway I-575/ US Highway 515) provides quick access from the major population centers, while respecting the native beauty of the mountains. The two hour drive goes by very quickly and you are treated to some lovely mountain scenery along the way. Truly getting there is half the fun of visiting Young Harris.
Tickets to a Mountain Lion baseball game are $6 for adults; $3 for children aged 7-13, and free for children under the age of 7. There is no cost for parking on campus, and nearby accommodations are very reasonable ($65-$70) during the college baseball season as this is the low season for tourists. Often people will choose not to stay overnight, simply making it a pleasant day trip from the big city. The concessions at Miller Field are reasonably priced, so the entire family can attend without breaking the bank.
For as small a school as Young Harris is, it has produced several famous alumni. These include Governor Miller, Oliver Hardy of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo, and country music stars Ronnie Milsap and Tricia Yearwood.
The natural beauty of the area provides a beautiful backdrop in which to enjoy the game.
When the game is over, Lake Chatuge is located only two miles from campus and offers boating, water skiing and fishing opportunities.
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2 Sullivan St
Hayesville, NC 28904
Young Harris, GA 30582
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321 U.S. 76
Young Harris, GA 30582
300 Big Sky Dr
Hiawassee, GA 30546