2013 JUCO MVP Darius Reese finds new home
He was one of the smallest players at 5-foot-6, but Darius Reese made a big impact for Central Alabama Community College in last year’s Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The leadoff batter sparked the Trojans to their first baseball national title and the first for any Alabama junior college. He hit .552 with four extra-base hits, four RBI, 12 runs scored and five stolen bases.
Central Alabama defeated Palm Beach State College (Florida) 7-3 in the championship game.
“It was a feeling you’ll never forget,” Reese said. “It was like the David & Goliath story. We went out there, grind it out and see what happens.
“Being from Alabama, you don’t see the good arms you see in the World Series. Everybody there had good arms. It was an adjustment we had to make.”
Reese drew interest from NCAA Division I programs after his JUCO World Series performance, including the University of Alabama and a school in Kentucky, he said, but ended up at NAIA Southern Polytechnic State University (Georgia).
“I didn’t pass one of my classes and had to go NAIA,” Reese said. “I narrowed it down between Southern Poly and (Division II) West Alabama. Southern Poly is a good area.”
Southern Polytechnic coach Marty Lovrich saw Reese play in high school and is familiar with Central Alabama’s program. Lovrich coached Central Alabama coach Wynn Fletcher at Auburn-Montgomery.
“I think the thing he was looking for was somewhere he would be taken care of and be comfortable,” Lovrich said. “Being we did have a relationship and coaching his junior college coach, he knew we’d take care of him. He’s a great kid.
“He doesn’t come from a whole lot. He’s appreciative of everything he gets. He doesn’t take things for granted like most kids do.”
Reese was the kind of player Lovrich was looking to build the program around.
“It’s kind of funny,” Lovrich said. “My first year here, I inherited 22 of my 31 players. I had big strong guys and our ballpark plays huge. I have all these big, slow guys that can’t run. If we didn’t hit home runs, we weren’t too good. I had to change my recruiting strategy. Darius was one guy we had our eye on. We also recruited another guy a step faster than Darius.
“That (speed was) what we’re looking for.”
The junior outfielder injured his hamstring early in the season and was out for a few weeks.
“At first, it was rough making adjustment,” Reese said. “You see a bunch of off-speed pitches. Everybody knows who I am. I have to relax, play the game and not do too much.”
“We control our own destiny,” Lovrich said. “As long as you do that, you don’t have to worry about others.”