E.A. Sports Today

Right cage, right time

A chance meeting put Smith’s skills on display before the right eyes, and the Weaver standout will get the chance to play for Wallace State-Hanceville

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER — Elijah Smith has the skills to justify his opportunity to sit at a table dotted with his baseball memorabilia and don a Wallace State-Hanceville baseball cap before Weaver’s student body Tuesday, but a chance meeting helped him get there.

Right batting cage, right time.

Smith took his grind to Oxford, and former Jacksonville State player Lenn Coffey liked what he saw as Smith took cuts in the cage.

“He walked up to me and said how he knows I can hit just by me swinging one time,” Smith said. “He asked me if I had any offers, and I was like, no sir. He asked me if I wanted one, and I said, yes sir.

“He said he could get in touch with the coach at Wallace State.”

That led to Smith getting the chance to show his skills at a Wallace State practice. Wallace State coach Randy Putman offered him that day, Smith said. Smith committed and took home a Wallace State cap.

Tuesday’s ceremony celebrated his commitment and enrollment. Official signing will come later.

Speakers included Weaver head coach Jeremy Harper and assistant coach Jake Crain. Harper touted Smith’s .519 batting average and over 300 career his, spanning back to Smith’s varsity breakthrough as a seventh-grader.

“That’s a very big accomplishment, given the competition that we play,” Harper said. “Piedmont is in our area. Phil Campbell, the playoff game, he had five hits in two games, against a team that’s probably going to be playing for the state championship.”

Memorabilia of Elijah Smith’s baseball career covers the table used for his signing ceremony at Weaver High School on Tuesday. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Smith clearly has game. He just needed to be seen.

Coffey, who played briefly at JSU in 1992 and minor-league baseball in Sarasota, Fla., before injuries shortened his career, lives in Oxford and was visiting a friend in the batting cages. Pings peaked Coffey’s curiosity.

In Smith, he found an eager-to-learn player who listens.

“I walked over there, and I was like, ‘Man, he can hit,’ and it just went from there,” said Coffey, a regional manager for Minnesota-based Replenex, Inc., an industrial distributor. “I saw some things that I corrected, and he started hitting better. …

“He listened, and that’s about 90 percent of it. You listen to the coach, he tells you what to do, and you do it.”

Coffey keeps an eye out for talent that might help Putman’s team and called him about Smith. That led to Smith’s chance to practice at Wallace State, and he treated it like a practice at Weaver.

“They were practicing real-life scenarios,” Smith said. “When I went to go practice with them, they had their rival the next week, Shelton State, and I was with them just practicing.

“I was actually doing what I usually do. I wasn’t all nervous and scared to go on the field. … I was very confident on the field.”

After practice, Smith sat down in Putnam’s office.

“He said that he really likes how fast my hands are and how smooth they are and how I have bat speed,” Smith said. “He said the one thing that shocked him was that I wasn’t scared to go on the field and do what I usually do.”

Elijah Smith’s signing-day cake. (Photo by Joe Medley)

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