The fun between Xs and Os

Published 3:11 pm Friday, March 16, 2012

I have covered Demopolis High School baseball for five seasons now. My first varsity game was with a senior class that had guys like John Mackey, Scott Cannon and Palmer O’Neal.

Over the years I have seen players like Shelby Speegle, Trey Oates, Ben Pettus, Chase Cameron and many others complete their high school careers.

There has been talent here and there. But, as a team, I’d seen the program make it out of the first round of the playoffs only twice in four years. And, every year, the team seemed to limp into the playoffs with a less-than-stellar record — with the exception of an incredible second round series against John Carroll in 2008 — the group always managed to somehow exit the playoffs with little more than a whimper.

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Talented players for sure, but the teams themselves never seemed to live up to their potential.

It is very early still, but this year’s team has a different feel to it. These players have a chemistry. They really play well together. And they defy a lot of the stereotypes about what it takes to win.

They don’t have the power hitters that are going to mash double digit homerun totals. But they have kids who can hit and run and almost will themselves on base.

They don’t have a dominant arm that throws in the high 80s or low 90s. But they have guys like William Stewart, who really understand how to pitch and how to manage a game from the mound.

They are not the most athletic team in the world, but they are as defensively sound as just about anybody else out there.

And, while I have not gotten to watch them as much as I would like, this team has been the most fun group to cover in my five seasons of being around Demopolis HIgh School baseball.

These kids like each other well enough and love to play the game. That fact is apparent every time they get dirty on a ground ball, every time they battle back from a deficit to win a game. When a team loves to play the game the way this group does, it even shows up in the box score: the walks drawn, the sacrifice bunts, the lack of errors committed.

This group displays an attitude and grit very similar to the 14U West Alabama all-star team that knocked off Satsuma and tangled with Cottage Hill in July of 2008. These DHS seniors were 14 years old that summer. And while their run stopped shy of where they wanted then, those experiences and all those since may finally pay off this spring as Stewart, Taylor Polk, Kole Thrasher, Alex and Daniel Sturdivant, Louis Stuedeman attempt to lead their school and town back to the baseball glory to which it is accustomed while having plenty of fun along the way.