Each year, the Benjamin Russell baseball team typically has representation at the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association annual all-star showcase in Troy, and that trend has continued this year.
Both Ryan Slaten and Lathan Vickers have been named to the varsity showcase, which begins Tuesday, while Jaxon Hay and Gabe Benton will represent BRHS on the JV level.
“It’s great for those guys because they get to go compete against some of the state’s better players at one venue,” Wildcat coach Richy Brooks said. “All those guys play travel ball in the summer, so they’re still playing anyway, but they also get to do this all in one place. Plus, there’s a lot of educational stuff that goes with it.”
Some of the educational portions include talks about playing at the collegiate level, preparation for the recruiting process, ways to work out and more.
As far as the actual showcase, it’s typically a controlled setting and a good opportunity for players to get seen by a wide array of college coaches. The showcase is set up for all players to get an equal chance at playing time with regulations like the counts starting at 1-1, limiting pitchers to five hitters an inning and how many times batters get in the box.
“You also take batting practice in front of everyone and they usually do a morning showcase,” Brooks said. “During that, they run the 60, do drills and things like that. A weight guy comes in to show them the different weight training for specific baseball programs. The guys all stay in dorms, so they really get a little taste of what college life is like.”
This isn’t the first time Slaten has gotten statewide recognition as he was recently named to the AHSAA North-South All-Star game. But with that not actually taking place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, this will be an even bigger opportunity for him.
“This is a chance for him to go showcase his skills and start garnering some interest going into his last year (in high school),” Brooks said. “He’s always indicated to me he wants to play collegiate baseball and his best bet to do that is as a pitcher. This is an opportunity for him to go perform, and a lot of eyes will be on him when that happens.”
As for Vickers, he began pitching this summer but his main position is in the outfield. He was playing on the JV team for the Wildcats until just a few games before the shutdown.
“We pulled him up and started him, but he really didn’t get that long with us so that was unfortunate,” Brooks said. “He’ll be a junior next year and he’s always been a good performer for our JV team, so this will be a good opportunity for him.”
In the past, Benjamin Russell players who have competed in the all-star showcase have returned with a lot of knowledge and that’s in turn helped the Wildcats become better as a whole. But most importantly, Brooks wants the players selected this year to take advantage of the chance to see how the recruiting process works and bring that experience back to the rest of the Wildcats.
“They’ll come back and you hear them talk about the recruiting stuff a lot,” Brooks said. “They’ll talk about how people are always watching you and they’re going to evaluate you. The biggest thing is you never know what moment is going to be the difference between you getting a scholarship and not.”