TA’s Thomas to play baseball for Shelton State Buccaneers
Thu. January 31, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
TUSCALOOSA | Senior Clay Thomas, who helped Tuscaloosa Academy capture its first AISA championship in football, plans to stick with baseball in college.
Thomas signed Wednesday to play for coach Bobby Sprowl at Shelton State Community College.
"This is a great milestone," Thomas said. "It’s something you always want to do when you’re little, play college baseball. And it’s not just college baseball. It’s winning baseball. Shelton State’s a proven winner. I think this a great opportunity to succeed at the next level.
"Shelton’s the strongest program in the state. They always make it to Colorado (for the JUCO World Series). It’s just a great opportunity to win."
Thomas expects to be a center fielder for the Knights, who finished as the runner-up in the AISA Class AAA finals in 2012.
"I can play anywhere," Thomas said. "I’ll play wherever (Sprowl) needs me to play. Outfield is the kind of position I’ve made my home here of late."
Thomas, who joined the varsity baseball team as a freshman, has started in 93 games and has a career batting average of .381. He was a halfback and safety for the football team, which went 13-0 and earned the title by beating Lee-Scott Academy 27-26. He holds the school record with 18 career interceptions. Thomas rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and was a first-team All-State selection.
Tuscaloosa Academy baseball coach Patrick Jones said Thomas has played at every position except first base.
"It’s invaluable having a guy like that you can plug into any spot and he’s going to perform for you and get the job done," Jones said. "From a leadership standpoint, we look for a lot more out of Clay this year. Last year we only had one senior. Clay was a big part of the reason why we got as far as we got last year. We’re hoping he can help us build on that and get a little bit further this year.
"He has great speed. He can go get the ball. I felt like last year we had the best outfield in the AISA. With him coming back in the center, it’ll only be better this year. Clay’s a great hitter, so no matter where we have him in our lineup, he’s going to help tremendously."
Reach Andrew Carroll at email@example.com or at 205-722-0223.