Saints to hold alumni day

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, April 30, 2014

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2004, 2009 LBWCC teams will be recognized

Former LBWCC Saints baseball players said buying into what they learned as players helped take them to new heights.

That was especially evident for the 2004 and 2009 baseball teams, which will be recognized on Saturday during Alumni Day at Crum Foshee Field prior to the Saints’ doubleheader against Enterprise State.

The 2004 Saints finished the season 47-18 and as the runner up to Grand Rapids, Mich., in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Millington, Tenn. The same team won the Region 22 Alabama tournament in Dothan.

During the 2009 season, LBWCC finished 48-11 and won the Southeast Regional in Burlington, N.C., and then advanced to the World Series in Enid, Okla.

Wetumpka native Mitch Thorn, who was a pitcher for the 2004 team and currently lives in Andalusia, said it was the best year to play under Saints coach Steve Helms.

“We were a real close-knit group,” Thorn said. “Everybody bought into what the coaches were teaching us. We went through a lot during the fall as far as workouts and mental toughness.

“Being a real close group was the reason why we had the success we had,” he said. “We had a lot of talent, but talent doesn’t win everything.”

Thorn said Helms actually taught the game of baseball to all of the players.

“He taught us how to play it,” he said. “Not only just the fundamentals, but just the mental part of the game as well. He really instilled that on us. That was also one of the reasons we were so successful.”

Opp native Cody Hall, who pitched on the 2009 team, said the experience playing for LBWCC was “unbelievable.”

“It was the greatest group of guys I’ve ever been a part of,” Hall said. “We had sophomores that year who never let anything negative happen to us.”

Hall said he was a part of a group of 19 freshmen, which included Andalusia head baseball coach Tyler Dent.

“We had some sophomores that took care of us,” he said. “They pretty much showed us and told us that we needed to buy in to the program. Every one of us bought into it; what (LBWCC assistant) coach (Brandon) Ware and Helms preached. The team responded. We had a lot of confidence in each other and ourselves.”

Many of the 2004 squad went on to have careers in the MLB. Joe Rowe played for the Anaheim Angels, Josh Terrell played for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Trevion Griffin played for the Atlanta Braves. Additionally, most, like Thorn, went on to continue their college playing careers.

Thorn went to play at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and then transferred to Auburn University-Montgomery for his senior year, due to a coaching change at UAB.

Looking back on it, it was pretty special to play with such good talent, Thorn said.

“At that time you don’t really realize what you’re playing with and are just enjoying the moment,” he said. “As far as the caliber of players, there were teams that I played with that had the total package, but LBW was by far the best team I played on that year.”

Many baseball teams are known for either their hitting or defense in the field.

Hall and Thorn said their teams weren’t known for just one area of the game.

“We thought we could do it all,” Hall said. “We had four guys who didn’t get beat on the mound. Two of them went 10-0. I went 4-0. Tyler was our Bulldog. He won six or seven games, and he was the guy we wanted out there if we needed a win.”

Thorn said in addition to a good pitching staff, the 2004 team hit the ball well, too.

“We could hit the baseball,” Thorn said. “Josh Terrell led the nation. He batted over .400 and finished at around .450 with 20-some-odd home runs. We had several guys batting .350 and .400.”

Getting the win on the mound during the Southeast Regional to clinch a berth to the World Series was a moment Hall said he’d never forget.

“Getting that third out was unbelievable,” Hall said. “Knowing what we accomplished, I was happy for my whole team. It was a feeling words can’t describe. You can’t really tell anybody about it. It was awesome.”

And getting to share and remember those special memories is something Thorn and Hall are looking forward to the most.

The alumni players from both teams are set to be recognized at around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.