Double play

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lowndes Academy tandem will show what they have in Troy

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

Some of the best high school baseball players in the state will be going head-to-head this weekend at Troy University.

Two area athletes can consider themselves among that class.

Lowndes Academy’s T.J. Mills and Bradley Adams will be participants in the seventh annual Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Underclassmen All-Star Weekend.

From Friday to Sunday, 160 baseball players on eight teams will be working out and playing at Riddle-Pace Field.

“It felt really good to get picked,” Adams said. “Last year, I went to the showcase at Huntingdon and didn’t get picked. I was worried about the same thing happening this year. They called me the next afternoon and told me I had been picked.”

Before being picked to go to Troy, both Adams and Mills were picked from a pool of athletes at a recent showcase at Huntingdon College.

The process wasn’t quite as nerve racking for Mills, who found out that same night. He finished the 2006 season as the team’s leading hitter with a .425 average, 57 RBIs and one home run playing first base and outfield. As a pitcher, he held a 6-2 record.

“I was very excited because I didn’t do as well as I thought I could have,” Mills said. “I was shocked almost. I didn’t throw the ball as well. Hopefully, I’ll meet a bunch of new people, learn from all the coaches and get better for next year.”

The showcase figures to be a motley group of talent, inviting players from large public schools as well as small private schools and everything in between.

But Rebels coach John Gluschick isn’t worried about the size of the school his players attend.

Their success boils down to their talent and how much they are willing to do to maximize it.

“Baseball, I think, is different from other sports,” Gluschick said. “If you have nine guys that can play the game of baseball, you can match up with anybody. We have 15 or 16 guys here that really have been part of a winning tradition. I’m not worried about them coming from a smaller school. The AISA is well represented in Troy.”

Both players stayed at the front of the Rebels’ pitching staff all year and usually went up against other teams’ No. 1 or 2 arms.

Adams also was Lowdnes’ catcher this past season. He hit .330 with one home run and went 8-5 on the mound.

His focus this weekend will be mainly on his hitting and defense.

“This is really the first year I’ve actually been a catcher,” Adams said. “I’m sure there’s more things I can learn about catching. It’ll help me to go down there knowing I have to play a little bit harder.

“It’ll make me step up.”

The players – all of them underclassmen – will return next season and help their teams as well as bring a boost to their personal games.

Also, they’ll get a look from college coaches and pro scouts.

“These two guys give me two great arms on the mound, and they give me excellent knowledge of the game,” Gluschick said. “It makes my job a lot easier. They study hard, and they hustle. It just gives these guys an opportunity to play at a bigger venue. There will be many, many junior college baseball coaches and pro scouts. I hope they can catch somebody’s eye, and if (scouts) follow up, they’ll see some of our other players.”

There is an added spike in anticipation for the duo.

Mills will play for the South-Central Columbia Blue team, and Adams will play for the South-Central Kelly Green team.

Those teams are scheduled to play against one another on the last day in the last game of the weekend – Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

“I think it’ll be fun to play against someone you play with,” Adams said of Mills. “I’ve played against him a couple of times before. I know how he pitches, and he knows how I catch and hit.”

The benefit of the weekend is not just for the players, however.

“I’m going to go down there and see how our two guys do and learn more about the game myself,” Gluschick said. “You can always learn something about the game – different ways to get things done as far as strategy and evaluating players. And they’ll get to see how things run on a college level.”