E.A. Sports Today

Birthdays, rebirths

Jax State transfer Robinson walks it off on his 21st birthday, and Monsters win the home opener of their Oxford return in extra innings.

Cover photo: Choccolocco Monsters center fielder Rashad Robinson, set to transfer to Jacksonville State, celebrates his walk-off heroics and 21st birth with a cupcake Friday at Choccolocco Park.

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Rashad Robinson celebrated his 21st birthday with walk-off heroics and cupcakes, and the Choccolocco Monsters opened their Oxford rebirth with extra-inning glory.

Robinson’s sacrifice fly to deep left field plated the winning run, and the Monsters beat the visiting Brookhaven Bucks 9-8 in 10 innings Friday on Choccolocco Park’s signature field.

The 2024 Choccolocco Monsters roster.

The game marked 2024 home opener for the Monsters, who played their 2023 season in Columbus, Ga., then moved back to Oxford when the Atlanta Braves moved their Double-A affiliate to Columbus.

The Monsters, which won their season-opener 11-10 over the Atlanta Crackers on the road on Tuesday, upped to 2-0 with another one-run victory.

With an assist from the public address, Monsters teammates and the fans sang happy birthday to Robinson following his 10th-inning at bat. The Jacksonville State University transfer then partook from a tray of sprinkled birthday cupcakes provided by Monsters’ general manager Roby Brooks.

“This is just awesome, man,” Robinson said. “I just thank God and whatever He continues to do for me.”

The Monsters play in the Sunbelt League, a wood-bat summer league for college players.

A Mobile native, Robinson started his college career at the University of Memphis. He redshirted then transferred to Bishop State Community College. A strong showing when Jax State staff came to see him play resulted in a new Division I opportunity.

The Monsters hired Brooks, the Top Gun Athletic owner, as general manager, and the Brooks connection played a part in getting Robinson for the Monsters. Robinson is living at Brooks’ home while playing for the Monsters.

“Roby, I love him,” Robinson said. “He just reached out to me. I think he’s a good friend of one of our coaches at Bishop State, and I just got connected with it. I love it up here.”

Robinson’s walk-off fly ball was part of a day that saw him go 1-for-2 with a double and and two runs in five plate appearances. He went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs in the Monsters’ victory at Atlanta on Tuesday.

Teammates charged out of the dugout and chased Robinson into the outfield to celebrate the game-ending at bat Friday. Monsters’ coach Ricky Ray Clayton called the team’s Friday dramatics “a fun one.”

“It was a good way to start the home opener, with a little walkoff,” he said. “It couldn’t have worked out any better with Rashad on his 21st birthday.

“I just knew when he was coming up how that one was going to end. It’s kind of a fairy tale ending.”

Robinson wasn’t the only local connection to coming up big in the Monsters’ home opener. Former Oxford High standout Hayes Harrison, the 2023 Alabama Mr. Baseball and Gatorade Alabama player of the year, had a solid start on the mound.

Making his first pitching appearance in the Choccolocco Park signature field mound since Game 1 of the 2023 Class 6A state title series against Spanish Fort, he allowed six hits and three earned runs with five strikeouts in four innings.

Two of the runs he surrendered came in the first inning, when Robinson and right-fielder Trey Higgins, another former Oxford High standout, struggled to locate fly balls against a setting sun.

Now playing for Northwest Shoals Community College, Harrison called pitching at Choccolocco Park “cool.” He went 13-0 during Oxford’s state-title season of 2023.

“It’s kind of like a homecoming,” said Harrison, who pitched at Jax State’s Rudy Abbott Field during a recent junior college tournament.”

The Monsters’ roster also includes former Spring Garden standout Weston Kirk, who saw action at shortstop Friday, and former White Plains pitcher Carson Tyree. Kirk plays for Spring Hill College, and Tyree plays for Jax State.

Friday’s key performers included Cole Tremain, who went 2-for-4 with a run. Tate Morris was 2-for-4 with two runs.

Kirk, Abilene Christian’s Jake Goolsby and West Alabama’s Fisher Moss each had an RBI, and Gooslby’s two-run double was the big blow in the Monsters’ six-run fourth inning to take an 8-3 lead.

Closer Avery Brown (undecided), who closed out the Monsters’ win in Atlanta on Tuesday, did it again Friday, allowing one hit in 1 1/3 innings and working out of jams with runners in scoring position in the ninth and 10th innings.

“Avery, we’ve played two games, and that’s the second time he’s had a lot of pressure on him, and he has come through for us,” Clayton said. “That’s really big to see out of your closer.

“He don’t show a lot of emotion. He’s kind of stone cold, and he’s really, really good.”

Photo gallery by Joe Medley

Former Oxford High standout Hayes Harrison warms up for his start on the mound Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Monsters head coach Ricky Ray Ray Clayton hits warmup balls before the the Monsters’ home opener against Brookhaven on Friday.
Monsters assistant coach Sam Maynard throws during warmups before their home opener against Brookhaven at Choccolocco Park.
Monsters’ first basemen Andrew Wells (10) and Jake Goolsby warm up before their home opener against Brookhaven on Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Choccolocco Monsters players watch during warmups for their home opener against Brookhaven on Friday at Choccolocco Park.
The scene on Choccolocco Park’s signature field before Friday’s Choccolocco Monsters home opener against Brookhaven.
Choccolocco Monsters players enjoy a light moment in the dugout before their home opener against Brookhaven on Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Former Oxford High standout Trey Higgins (left) and Monsters teammate Cole Tremain before Friday’s home opener for the Monsters at Choccolocco Park.
Monsters general manager Roby Brooks (left) and Choccolocco Park director Billy Thompson talk before the Monsters’ home opener on Friday.
Monster’s manager Ricky Ray Clayton during Friday’s pregame meeting with umpires at Choccolocco Park.
The crowd for the Choccolocco Monsters’ 2024 home opener on Choccolocco Park’s signature field.
The 2024 Choccolocco Monsters line up for the National Anthem before their home opener Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Hayes Harrison deals during the Choccolocco Monsters’ home opener Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Jacksonville State-bound Rashad Robinson doubled during the Choccolocco Monsters’ home opener on Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Rashad Robinson scores the Choccolocco Monsters’ first run at home in 2024 Friday.
Cole Tremain singles for the Choccolocco Monsters on Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Trey Higgins on the base paths during Friday’s home opener for the Choccolocco Monsters at Choccolocco Park.
Former White Plains pitcher Carson Tyree gets loose in the bullpen during the Choccolocco Monsters’ home opener Friday at Choccolocco Park.
Monsters shortstop and former Spring Garden High player Weston Kirk holds court during a pitching change Friday at Choccolocco Park.
The Choccolocco Monsters charge the field after beating the Brookhaven Bucks 9-8 in 10 innings Friday at Choccolocco Park. It marked the home opener for the Monsters’ return to Oxford after playing their 2023 season in Columbus, Ga.
The 2024 Choccolocco Monsters cap.

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