July 30, 2014 12:04:06 PM
Wells Davis admits he didn't know anything about the South Alabama baseball program in June.
Davis' introduction to the Jaguars started as soon as he arrived at Eddie Stanky Field, the home of South Alabama's baseball team, in Mobile, Alabama, ready to make a statement as a member of East Coast Baseball. After rapping a double and a triple and another double off the outfield wall, Davis had accomplished his goal and was officially a prime target for the South Alabama coaching staff. It didn't take long for the Jaguars' coaches to educate Davis about the school and to give him a scholarship offer he couldn't refuse.
Last week, Davis finalized a whirlwind recruitment by giving a verbal commitment to play baseball at South Alabama. The rising senior first baseman at New Hope High School said his showing at the showcase tournament for travel ball teams in the middle of June and his efforts throughout the summer helped him secure a combined academic/athletic scholarship to play Division I baseball.
"Once I went on my visit my heart was set on it," said Davis, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-handed hitter. "They say you get that feeling when you go to the right place and nothing else matters. I figured that out when I went there."
Davis said he was impressed with coach Mark Calvi's program, his plan for the program, the school, the campus, and everything he saw in Mobile. He said felt "speechless" on the ride home from his return visit and realized that there wasn't anything bad he could say about the school or the program and that he wanted to go there.
"I just really loved South Alabama," Davis said. "I told my mom I had nothing else to think about after I went there. They wanted me. They told me they wanted me. When I wanted it to be me, too, we were on the same page."
As a junior at New Hope, Davis hit .379, scored 31 runs, had 39 hits, 33 RBIs, 12 doubles (team-high), and one home run in the Trojans' run to a second-consecutive Class 5A state title. He also led the team in on-base percentage (.484) and slugging percentage (.524) and committed only one error in 185 chances.
But Davis said his efforts with East Coast Baseball, a travel team made up of some of the top players from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee, helped seal the deal on a college scholarship. Davis said the "best thing" he did was to "show out" at baseball camps at Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
East Coast Baseball's Joe Caruso, one of the founders of the organization, saw Davis at the camps and knew he had to have him.
"He has great potential and great bat speed," said Caruso, a former All-America baseball player at Alabama. "I could tell he was a very good hitter. I called director Greg Sykes and he said he knew the Davis family well. I told him to use your connections and land this kid and get him to come play for us."
Caruso was a 11th-round draft choice of the Kansas City Royals in the 1997 Major League Baseball draft. He climbed as high as Class AAA in an eight-year professional career with the Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Caruso also worked as a hitting coach at Crichton College and Meridian Community College. He said Davis had an "unbelievable" weekend at South Alabama, and credited the school's coaches for doing a "great" job recruiting Davis.
"Being a kid from Mississippi in a small town, we took Wells out on a big stage and he performed amazingly and a lot of schools liked him," Caruso said. "South Alabama gave him best scholarship opportunity, and Wells made a great decision going there. I think he is going to have a great career."
Scott Mitchell, who coached Davis on the East Coast Baseball team this summer, agreed. The former Mississippi State standout, who went on to coach at Kentucky and Birmingham Southern, said Davis' performance this summer helped make him a hot commodity.
"He is one of the best hitters I have seen in a long time," said Mitchell, who is baseball coach at Rogers High in Florence, Alabama. "I think East Coast Baseball was a conduit for him to be able to display his skills."
Davis said it is weird that the recruiting process is over for him and it isn't August. But that doesn't mean he is going to change his mind. He said he enjoys the fact he has college taken care of and that he can focus on becoming an even better player -- one who knows a lot about South Alabama.
"That has always been my dream to sign in the fall and not have to worry about it," Davis said. "I love the fact that it is out of the way and I don't have to be pressured to hit .400, or hit three home runs, or to have 40 RBIs or 40 hits. I don't have to do that. I want to. It is just a good feeling to know (he has signed a scholarship to play baseball in college next year).
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.