Fort Payne, Collinsville players in mix at all-star event

FORT PAYNE — Fort Payne and Collinsville were represented at the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association All-Star event this week.

Fort Payne’s Brody Gifford, an incoming senior, and Nolan Fowler, an incoming freshman, competed in the showcase for high school baseball players across the state with Collinsville incoming senior Dalton Hughes at Troy University this week.

The event began Monday and ends Saturday. Classes of 2023-24 played Monday-Wednesday with Classes of 2021-22 closing out the showcase. Classes of 2023-24 were divided into six teams, while Classes of 2021-22 were divided into 10 teams.

“When I found out I got invited I was pretty excited,” Hughes told The Times-Journal on Thursday. “I’m getting to join and play with and against the top players in the state.”

Hughes played on Team Royal, joining Gadsden City’s Jase Gray, Central’s Jimmy Holcombe and Hoover’s Cornelius Austin, among others. The team was coached by Snead Community College’s Casey Underwood.

“I’m just enjoying the experience of making new friends and having fun playing baseball and trying to show out on the field to get noticed by colleges,” Hughes said.

Hughes’ team played a game on each of the three days. Hughes said his Team Royal accounted for two inside-the-park home runs Wednesday en route to winning the team’s opening game of the showcase.

Fowler received his invitation via text from Lawson State Community College baseball coach Blake Lewis on June 14.

“At first I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was because I’ve never played in anything like this event before,” Fowler said. “After it sank in I was very honored and excited, and I realized my hard work had paid off.”

After Fort Payne’s baseball season was cut short due to the pandemic and with Fowler not playing on a travel ball team, he said he put in extra time at the baseball field this summer to better prepare for the event. Fowler credited Fort Payne coach Eric Varnadore with playing a big role in his preparation. 

Gifford received his invitation June 11. He pitched two innings in his team’s first game and toured Troy’s campus and athletic facilities during his free time, making some new friends in the process.

“It has been very fun meeting new players and seeing some different play styles,” he said. “For the most part we played together very well.”

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