Sunday, March 29, 2009

Help is Coming!

I was traveling in northeast Alabama last week and did a double take when I saw this sign on the side of the road. Actually the more I thought about what I thought I saw on the sign the more I wondered what I really saw.

I turned around and drove back to read it.

Hokes Bluff High School obviously has an incredible baseball program. You don’t win six straight state championships and not use the word incredible with the accomplishment.

I found out more.

Hokes Bluff is the home of the young man who was elected Mr. Baseball in the state of Alabama in 2008. He was also the second player drafted by the Atlanta Braves in last year’s draft.

I also learned that Tyler Stovall is a 6’2” 200lb southpaw and has a fast ball that has been clocked as high as 96 mph. He also had a monster curve and a tight slider to go with the fast ball. I also heard there was at least one game when he pretty much struck out everybody he faced.

And he can hit as well as he can pitch.

His high school coach, Mike Estes, has been at it for 32 years. It has been said Estes is the greatest high school coach in the history of Alabama high school baseball. He has produced numerous Division 1A signees and has even produced one Major Leaguer. Estes has seen a few baseball players.

Mike Estes says Tyler Stovall is the best he’s ever coached.

It’s amazing the things you can learn if you keep your eyes and ears open when you are driving around rural America.

When Tyler Stovall takes the mound for the Atlanta Braves in the next few years, remember you read about him here first.

The message seems to be rather loud coming from Hokes Bluff , AL to Turner Field in Atlanta.

Help is coming!

Yeah baby.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information. Jim and I have past Hokes Bluff everytime we go to Birmingham, which is many times, but never knew all this information. Next time we pass Hokes Bluff I will think about the great baseball history and your blog.

Molly McCord said...

Tyler Stovall is one of my good friends little brother. I ride horses with Katie... although I have never met him I hear a lot about him. He has also fixed her up with a brand new slant load/living quarters horse trailer. Sounds like a good brother to me! Excellent ball player!

Katie Stovall said...

That's my little bro!! He is in Orlando playing for the Braves Gulf Coast league right now. Once spring training is over he will fint out if he gets to go to 1A in Rome. Keep your eyes open for him in the future.

Katie Stovall said...

Here are a few links to read more on Tyler and Hokes Bluff Baseball.

Katie stovall said...

Try again here is a Gadsden times article.
Stovall enjoys much more than baseball

Published: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 11:25 p.m.
There is more to Tyler Stovall than baseball — a lot more. Granted, he is among the top high school baseball pitchers in the nation and is expected to become a very rich young man soon after the baseball draft in June. All of that is good, but it’s not all there is to the story.
Take football, for example, which he says is a great game and he enjoys playing. Last fall he heard from a lot of people about whether he should play or just concentrate on baseball.
He was told an injury might end his baseball career. He was told that he needed to forget about a future in baseball and just enjoy his senior year in high school. He said it came down to loving football as much as he loves baseball.
“I’m very competitive and my friends were playing, so I wanted to play. If I had not played, then I would have missed it,” he said. “I also played basketball except this year. I skipped it because the season overlaps baseball. But I did go to all the games and cheered for the team.”
Stovall said an older brother had a college football scholarship and his sister even played football on a youth team when she was younger.
“All members of my family are competitors and like to win,” he said.
Take his jersey number, which is 13. That’s a family thing, too.
No. 13 was the jersey number of Tyler ’s father, Brian Stovall, when he was in high school. It was the number that Brian’s brother and nephew wore.
Tyler’s brother also was No. 13, until he became too big for a skilled position. When the coaches switched him to the line, he switched to a number that fit his position.
Tyler’s sister also was No. 13. So Tyler is the sixth member of the family who has worn that number.
In fact, he carries it a step farther.
When he signs his autograph he adds “Philippians 4:13” under his signature rather than just his number, “No 13,” as do a lot of players.
He adds the Bible verse because he is a Christian and that is a way of witnessing. He writes 4:13 rather than the actual verse, which is only 10 words, because he hopes it will cause kids to get a Bible and look it up.
No. 13 is considered an unlucky number by a lot of people. There are hotels that do not have a 13th floor. At one time no race car driver would have a No. 13 or use the color green, which is Hokes Bluff’s color.
Tyler doesn’t pay any attention to it being unlucky, and neither did his father when he started the tradition.
“I always thought 13 was a good number because 12 disciples and one other changed the world as we know it, so it really could not be an unlucky number as some say,” said Brian.
Tyler agrees with his dad and is quick to point out, if someone should ask, that the “one other” is Jesus.
This spring just about every major league baseball team has scouted Tyler, and he will not have a choice about which team drafts him. But he doesn’t make any secret about his favorite team. He’s a Braves fan and has been to some of the Braves’ baseball camps.
Other teams have asked him to attend pre-draft camps, but he says they are the same week as his senior class week. He says he prefers to go have fun with his classmates since this will be the last time they will be together.
Other than the Braves, Tyler grew up an Auburn fan. He has signed a baseball scholarship with the school, although he plans to play pro ball. “I signed with them just to show my love for the school,” he said.
“I plan to go there to college at some point and get a degree in aerospace engineering,” he continued. “I would like to play baseball the rest of my life, but I know I can’t play forever, so I need an education to fall back on when the time comes.”
Tyler (11-1) is scheduled to pitch again in the 4:30 game Friday against Winfield in the Class 3A state baseball playoffs. This will be a quarterfinal round with a second game to follow. A third game, if necessary, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday.
In the previous series Hokes Bluff swept Madison Academy 13-1 and 6-4. Tyler won the first game, striking out 10 batters in five innings before the game was called. He gave up two hits and walked one batter. He pitched the sixth and seventh innings of the second game, getting his first and only save of the season.
He also got another “win” off the field Wednesday when it was announced that he was the valedictorian of his senior class.
Sports Editor Emeritus Jimmy Smothers can be reached at

Katie said...

One more from B'ham News

Star rises in Alabama

Star rises in Alabama
Friday, May 09, 2008
News staff writer
Picture the All-American boy. Call him Tyler Stovall.
He camps with his buddies and hits rocks into lakes with sticks. He swims in his skivvies.
He paints his face for high school basketball games. He used to play, but the closest he comes to the hardwood now is firing trash jumpers at the lobby trash can.
When he takes his girlfriend out, he has her home by a 10 p.m. curfew. He cleans up the house without being told to.
Now make him the class valedictorian. Let him love calculus and quarterback the football team.
Then make him the best prep baseball player in the state and one of the best in America. Give him the gift to throw a baseball so fast it looks like an aspirin tablet when it leaves his hand. And make it his left hand.
Let him throw 93-mile-per-hour pitches and break state records with his bat. Make him a likely first-round selection in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft in June.
It looks like a dream, but it is Stovall's reality.
"I see Tyler all the time," Hokes Bluff team parent David Colvard said. "He goes camping with us at our lake lot. You'd never guess the Tyler I know is the Tyler Stovall everyone else wants to know."
Stovall's Hokes Bluff team faces Plainview today in the state semifinals. The Eagles are in pursuit of their sixth straight Alabama High School Athletic Association state championship.
Holly Stovall, his mother, just smiles about the senior to whom she feeds French toast in the morning and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches late at night.
"Couldn't have placed an order for a kid and have it come out any better," she said.

One example of that is the friendship between Stovall and Scottie Gowens. Gowens should have graduated last year, but he's a year behind in school.
Stovall noticed Gowens' talent for kicking a football after he boomed kick after kick over power lines in his backyard. Stovall told him to try out for the varsity team. With Stovall holding, Gowens won several games last year and made the All-State team.
"I can trust Tyler because he is more than a best friend to me," Gowens said. "He's like my second dad."
Gowens went from kindergarten to pre-first grade instead of first grade years ago. He doesn't read at a level that matches his age and his tests are administered in a different format than those of other students.
"The kids in Scottie's grade used to be mean and say things and pick on him," said Brenda Gowens, his mother. "Tyler never did that. Tyler set the example for all the kids in his grade at an early age not to do that."
"I just saw it wasn't how I would want to be treated if I was in his shoes," Stovall said.
That isn't special treatment.
The thing about Tyler is he's not making an exception for Scottie at all," Brenda Gowens said. "That's the way he treats everyone."
Real talent:
Steve Shields is the Hokes Bluff pitching coach. The Hokes Bluff native spent five years in the major leagues with five teams.

He has known Stovall since Stovall was 7 years old. That's when Stovall told him he was going to play in the big leagues, too. Shields now will be shocked if he doesn't.
"I played with some of the best left-handed pitchers to ever play the game," he said. "Ron Guidry, John Candelaria, Mark Langston; to me, he's as good as they were. He throws in the 90s He's got a nasty breaking ball like Guidry had. His ball runs like Candelaria's did. He reminds me a lot of Guidry because of that nasty slider that goes up there and disappears, but Tyler throws harder than Guidry ever did."
The pitchers Shields named combined for 526 career wins. That's what he sees in an 18-year-old who throws a slider, a splitter and is polishing a change-up.
Stovall went 18-1 last year and struck out 227 in 103 innings. His 2007 win and strikeout totals set single-season state records. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder is 12-1 this year. He also holds the state records for wins (52) and strikeouts (652) in a career.
The fact he plays Class 3A ball should not discredit those stats. Stovall flashed overpowering stuff this year against a Russell County team that's one of the elite 6A programs in the state.
Russell County beat Hokes Bluff 3-2 in that contest. Stovall gave up one earned run. He struck out nine and gave up five infield hits.
"After the first inning I went and told my coaches `Wow, that kid is the real deal,'" Russell County coach Tony Rasmus said. ... "He's a first-round guy."
Page 4 of 5
Rasmus compared him to one of his former players. Left-handed pitcher Kasey Kiker was selected with the 12th pick of the 2006 draft by the Texas Rangers.
"Kasey Kiker was the best high school pitcher I've ever seen," Rasmus said. ... "There's nothing but a hair on my head to separate those two in my mind."
Scouts from all 30 major-league teams have visited the Stovall home this year.
Those scouts salivate when a prospect has all the tools. Stovall also swings a powerful bat. He hit .528 with 13 home runs last season. He holds the state record for career doubles and is closing on the triples mark.
But the other tools Stovall has in abundance would make him a success in any vocation.
"You wouldn't believe how competitive he was over valedictorian," said Brian Stovall, his father. "The thing about Tyler is he's a perfectionist. And a competitor in everything from grades to Ping-Pong."
Lee Ann Casey had the edge on Stovall by a few hundredths of a point earlier this year. But Stovall closed that gap despite playing two sports and taking two physical education classes.
Casey took more college placement courses. That gave her a built-in edge. Hokes Bluff Principal Jeff Lasseter brought them both into his office to share their final averages late last month.
"And what does Tyler do when he learns he edged her out?" Lasseter said. "He leans over and gives her a hug. He was gracious in that even though he wanted it as much as he's probably ever wanted anything on the mound."
Page 5 of 5
That competitiveness shines often after a bad day at the plate.
"Everyone just expects Tyler to be good because of his talent," Brian Stovall said. "But that kid is the most determined human being I've ever met. He works to build on his talent. If he goes 0-for-4 at the plate, we'll be at the cages the next day. He'll hit at least 600 balls until his swing feels right."
Stovall also chose to play football this year. He did so despite every warning that he was risking his golden arm and millions in earnings. He just smiled when everyone told him he was crazy.
"I decided I loved football and that was what I was going to do," he said. "Everyone kept talking about my future. Well, I knew I'd regret my past 10 years down the road if I chose not to play football and let my team down our senior year."
That earned instant respect.
"We'd have a team meeting and Tyler would say how important the season was to him," teammate Josh Colvard said. "He said he was putting his future on the line to be a part of the team."
Then there's Stovall's approach to autographs. He estimates his time with the U.S. Junior National team in Mexico last summer pushed his career total to more than 10,000 signatures.
Those are 10,000 inspirations. To Stovall. Not to the recipients.
"I wish everyone could know how good it feels to walk off a field and have a kid ask for an autograph," he said. "I don't want to let those kids down. It crosses my mind when I sign that here's a kid I don't ever want to do something like get in trouble that will make that signature not mean the same thing to that kid."
Town icon:
Hokes Bluff is a 400-student school outside of Gadsden. Its fans place their fold-up chairs to lock in their favored viewing spot several days before the team plays a big game.
Other fans dot the outfield sky in deer stands in the trees behind right field. They hoist food with strings and buckets. There's a "Hit it Here" sign complete with a bull's-eye. It has gone to every state championship series in Montgomery at Paterson Field.
Lots of people in town have a Stovall story like one from Mark Weaver of Rainbow. He and his wife are Hokes Bluff alums.
Their 8-year-old son, John Mark, brought his rookie league bat to the field to let Stovall pitch to him. Stovall did while offering praise along the way.
After batting practice and talk of baseball cards, Stovall asked John Mark about his schoolwork.
"It's just something I do," said Stovall, who does not smoke or drink and sometimes monitors his father's occasional swear words. "Some may say they want to be like me one day. So I tell them if they want to be like me, then they've got to do it on the field and in the classroom too."
"This is what is so impressive about Tyler," Mark Weaver wrote in an e-mail. "He is a high school superstar but he has class and character."

Anonymous said...

What an outstanding young man.

Lee Ann said...

Not only is Tyler a great baseball player, he is an even better person....always a competitor, he was the Valedictorian of his class....and a person you would want your child to look up to....

Anonymous said...

Atlanta released Tyler from Class A Rome in October 2011 after he averaged 9.4 walks per 9 innings. Tyler dominated in high school, but somehow forgot how to throw strikes.