Grinding toward success

Published 12:05 am Thursday, August 4, 2016

Gage Messick and Ethan Cox show off some of their rings and awards won this summer. Messick and Cox will travel to Cullman this weekend to take part in the USSSA Regional Showcase baseball tournament. Josh Dutton/Star-News

Gage Messick and Ethan Cox show off some of their rings and awards won this summer. Messick and Cox will travel to Cullman this weekend to take part in the USSSA Regional Showcase baseball tournament.
Josh Dutton/Star-News

Andalusia’s Gage Messick and Opp’s Ethan Cox have had big summers on the diamond and where both recently selected to South Alabama All-State All-Tournament team after competing in the United States Specialty Sports Association tournament in Orange Beach.

“I’ve never had an honor that big before,” Cox said. “It was cool to get it. I felt pretty special in that moment.”

The pair began the journey that led them to this point back in March while playing for the Opp’s LA Venom travel ball team.

“We played in the March Madness tournament in Prattville and I guess we played good enough to make it to the next tournament,” Messick said.

Five players off the LA Venom team were selected for the All-Tournament team that went on to play in Orange Beach, but Cox and Messick were the only two that actually followed up on the invitation.

This was the first year that Messick competed on a travel ball team, and he said it has been a great experience.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Messick said. “I’ve met a lot of kids and made a lot of new friends. It’s really been a fun summer, and I hope it keeps going.”

Cox said that he has been playing travel ball for several years.

“It’s fun getting to travel around and play against all kinds of different teams,” Cox said. “It’s cool meeting a lot of new people. This past tournament, two of my friends from Brewton actually made the team as well and that made me feel a little bit better. It always makes it easier when you know a few people.”

For his outstanding performance in the tournament in Orange Beach, Cox was awarded tournament MVP.

“It was really cool to get picked for the MVP,” Cox said. “I felt really special. It was also really cool getting my first ring.”

Both players were given rings for making the All-State team, and it was easily their favorite part of the experience.

“The rings are really cool,” Messick said. “We will get another one in December when we go the Hall of Fame and Player of the Year banquet.”

In December, players who competed in the All-State showcase tournament will be given rings at the Hall of Fame and Player of the Year banquet to recognize their achivements.

This past weekend, the pair traveled down to Orange Beach to compete in skills competitions and also a tournament.

“It was really cool and felt it pretty good,” Messick said about playing in the skills and showcase tournament in Orange Beach. “I won the speed skills competition where they timed us running the bases.”

The players were allowed to compete in four different skills competitions, where they went up against more than 70 other players in their age group in base speed race, accuracy throw, home run derby and a bunting competition.

Messick blew away the competition with a time of 12.22 seconds in the base speed race, which was a whole second faster than any other player in the competition.

Cox showed off his big-time bat by crushing the competition in the home run derby. In 10 pitches, Cox let fly six home runs to win the derby.

“It was a lot of fun,” Cox said of the home run derby. “That was the first one I had every been in, and now I can’t wait for the one this weekend.”

In the home run derby, Messick also showed that he had more that just speed in his tool bag as he pounded four home runs in just 10 pitches.

“I’m going to win the home run derby at this next one and take that title from you,” Messick joked with Cox.

Following that tournament, both players were selected to the South Alabama All-State All-Tournament team and will now play in the Regional All-State Showcase tournament in Cullman on Aug. 6-8. At the Regional All-State Showcase, the players have a chance to make the Regional All-Tournament team.

“I really want to make the Regional All-State team,” Cox said. “That would be really cool to play against the top competition and see how I do. It also gets us prepared for what we will see at the next level, and it helps us get seen by college coaches early. I was at an Auburn camp recently, and one of the players was telling that travel ball was were he got noticed.”

Both players said they know it will take a lot of work to get to the next level.

“It takes a lot of hard work,” Cox said. “The kids we are going to be playing against are going to be just as talented as we are. I want to outwork them.”

Messick said he also wants to prove himself to the other players and coaches.

“I just want us to show them that we are good enough to play for the Regional All-State team.”

At the Regional Showcase in Cullman, the players will begin with skills competitions on Saturday morning before starting pool play games. The players will only be able to choose one skill event to compete in. Cox and Messick both said that they would be participating in the home run derby.