Thursday, January 23, 2014
When Wesley Brown took over the Fox Creek baseball program he wanted to help his players get to the next level.
On Jan. 16, four Fox Creek baseball players signed to play in college and will try to help Brown complete another goal: winning a state championship.
“It’s been a long road, this is what I worked for 3½ years ago when I got this job,” Brown said. “To stand up here in front of the news and for those guys to be recognized for the hard work they put in. It’s a testament to our coaching staff and how hard the guys have worked to get to this point. We’ve got goals here that haven’t been accomplished and they are the anchor for that.”
Russ Schneider, athletic director at Fox Creek, said the signings were huge for the school and the area.
“It’s amazing for the school. I don’t know that any (schools) in the area have that many sign,” he said. “I can’t say enough about our school, the faculty, the board and Coach Brown and his staff. Wes goes above and beyond trying to get these kids to the next level. A lot of places, when you’re a senior they’re done with you. Here it’s not the case. A lot of our coaches try to find you a place to go at the next level, if they can, when you’re a freshman.”
The four players who signed were Brandon Stallings and Darshon Broadwater to Spartanburg Methodist College, Roby Gillespie to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Terrance Hillary to USC Sumter.
“Brandon Stallings is a kid who brings that power arm for us,” Brown said. “He’s a kid who has a great work ethic out on the field.”
Stallings said the opportunity to play in college means a lot for him.
“It means a lot to get an opportunity to play at the next level,” he said. “This is what I’ve worked for my whole life, as far as baseball goes. To get this chance means a lot. (When I get to college) I’m going to try to go in and get some early playing time. I want to show off my arm strength and see if they give me an opportunity when I get there.”
Broadwater “brings excitement” for Fox Creek, with his speed in the field and on the base paths.
“Darshon (Broadwater) brings excitement to the game, because of his speed and being a left-handed bat,” Brown said. “He’s a great kid and a huge player for us.”
Broadwater “put in a lot of work” to get a baseball scholarship.
“It’s a blessing. I’ve been trying to go somewhere for baseball my whole high school career,” he said. “I’ve put in a lot of work and I’m happy I got the chance to go somewhere.”
The strong play of Gillespie has helped shore up the Predator defense, according to Brown.
“Roby, he has kind of been the anchor of our infield for the last three years,” Brown said. “He’s a leader out there on the field.”
The shortstop said he’s going to try to earn a spot once he gets to ABAC.
“It’s always been my dream to play baseball at the next level and I hope the dream continues going up and up as the years progress,” he said. “I think I’m going to come in and earn a spot on the infield and make a big name for myself in the ABAC organization.”
ABAC coach Robert Morgan said Gillespie fills a need for his program.
“He’s going to bring a lot of speed, good defense and I think he’ll get a little stronger offensively,” he said. “I definitely think he can hit, we just have to add a little bit more strength. We had a need in the middle infield and we decided to go ahead and knock it out with Roby.”
The final player to sign, Hillary, is the leadoff hitter for Fox Creek. He’s a “catalyst” for the offense, according to his head coach.
“Hillary is our leadoff man, he’s the guy that gets things kick-started for us out there,” Brown said.
For the Predator third-baseman, the chance to play in college is the realization of a dream.
“It’s a blessing, it’s a big blessing,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to take my talents to the next level. It’s a blessing to be here and I’m ready to make the best of it. I hope to play third base, I’ll have to put on more weight to stay at that position. If not, I’ll move to the middle infield. It’s up to my coach, I’m just excited to play at the next level.”
Now that these players have signed, the goal for Brown is to make sure to keep his players focused going into the season.
“My expectation for them is to not let this get to their heads,” he said. “The hard work they put in has them to this point, but they still have a long way to go. We’ve got goals here that haven’t been accomplished and they are the anchor for that.”
Josh Trahan, principal of Fox Creek, said the signings are an example of what focus on athletics and academics can become for student-athletes.
“I think this shows that these young people, who do the right thing and participate in sports, are going to have an opportunity,” he said. “All four of the young men who signed have really paid attention to athletics, but a majority of them have put academics above anything else. When they focus on academics like that it’s very easy to give these guys a chance. I think we’ve got some exciting games ahead. We’ve got a lot of seniors and a lot of good leadership. I expect them to go a long way this year. This may be the year for them to win it all.”
For Brown and his seniors, the pursuit of their goal begins on Feb. 11 against Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The Star.
Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.