Reeltown Dadeville baseball

Andy Anders / The Outlook Reeltown senior pitcher Gabe Bryant puts a charge into a pitch against Dadeville March 31.

Gabe Bryant wears No. 1 for Reeltown’s baseball team and donned the same number during football season. There’s little doubt that it fits him.

On the gridiron he was the Rebels’ quarterback, orchestrating an aggressive spread offense and often connecting with star receiver Marcus Haynes for big gains.

On the diamond he’s their leadoff hitter and No. 1 pitcher, dominating as a two-way force.

“He [leads] by his play,” Reeltown baseball coach Trey Chambers said. “And that’s more the type of leader you’re seeing in today’s game, is by show. He gives us a good opportunity every game to be successful. And I think the other guys see that, and they want to be as successful as he is.”

Dominating in baseball well enough to earn a spot at the collegiate level, Bryant is wrapping up his last season as one of Reeltown’s premier athletes — even if he’s not fully prepared to move on.

“While I’ve been here, I’ve made a lot of friendships with the coaches and players,” Bryant said. “I’ve just loved it here with them. I’ve grown as a teammate and as a leader. It’s just been a great year, I’m not ready for it to end.”

Bryant’s athletic career began before he hit preschool.

At 2 years old he was already in T-ball. By 6 he was playing football. He’s played both nearly every year since.

Even during those first days in football, he was a quarterback. Some youth coaches saw he had a decent arm and threw him there.

“You’re just in a role where you call the shots,” Bryant said. “That’s just why I like it so much. You get to lead everybody, tell them what to do, fix them if they’re wrong or help them if they’re right, if they need help.”

The shots he called for Reeltown football certainly paid dividends.

In two seasons as the team’s starting quarterback, Bryant amassed more than 3,000 passing yards.

“You know the obvious things, his physical attributes,” Reeltown football coach Matt Johnson said. “He’s got a big arm, he’s a big body, he’s over 6-2, close to 200 pounds or more. He moves well. He picked up on the offense early. But just his command for the huddle, his competitive spirit.”

Bryant described himself as the type of person to lead by example, a sentiment Johnson and Chambers both echoed.

He’s willing to set the tone for teammates during offseason training sessions, even when it’s not the flashiest types of exercises. Johnson noted his willingness to “get his hands dirty” separates him as a leader. He even stepped in to play safety or outside linebacker when called upon to do so.

“That example of leadership from that position is huge, because he’s not a guy that tried to petite around anything or try to tip-toe around hard work,” Johnson said. “He’d jump right in.”

Still, football isn’t where Bryant’s future lies. That’s in baseball. His favorite sport. The one he’s committed to play in college.

Bryant’s batting average has held steadfast above the gaudy .500 mark, and he’s been a stolen base and RBI machine on top of it. 

“It’s pretty special, in my opinion, to have a bat like that in the lineup,” Chambers said. “It’s not necessarily the dynamic of the power he can produce, it’s more about what he brings to the plate as far as approach. It’s a real struggle to get him out for teams. And mentally, that can wear on you.”

The ace of Reeltown’s pitching staff, Bryant deals the classic three-pitch combo of fastball, changeup, curveball. 

Chambers called him “our guy” on the mound. Bryant’s ability to pitch to contact alongside the strikeouts he records has impressed his coach.

“It just depends,” Bryant said. “If they’re on time for the fastball, if they’re not seeing it, or if they are on time, give a curveball or changeup to throw them off. I’ve just been developing, getting my arm stronger, hitting spots and taking what I’ve done in practice, putting it into the game.”

Bryant also served as a productive starter for Reeltown’s basketball team this year, collecting 5.6 points per game to finish fourth on the team. He placed second in assists with 1.4.

There’s work left to do in Bryant’s senior baseball season, for sure. Reeltown can lock up a playoff spot with a win in either of its first two area games against Beulah this week.

But he’s relieved to have his future secured too, he said. Bryant recently announced his intention to attend and play for Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia.

The Saints recruited him as a dual-way player but are big fans of his pitching in particular, Bryant added.

“It just takes a lot of pressure off,” Bryant said. “Now I can not worry about getting recruited by anybody, I can just have fun and play baseball, the game that I love.”

For Reeltown in the 2021-22 sports calendar, though, he’ll always be No. 1.

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