By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
SAND ROCK – Like most kids who grow up playing baseball, Sand Rock’s Brian Giles dreamed that one day he could get the opportunity to play at the next level.
It looked as if that opportunity might not happen for the recently graduated senior, but his uncle and former Jacksonville State baseball player Lenn Coffey helped Giles make a connection with Wallace State-Hanceville coach Randy Putman.
A tryout and a phone call later, and Giles is now a scholarship player with the Lions.
“To say I’m excited is an understatement. This is a great opportunity for me,” said Giles, who batted .472 with five doubles, a triple, nine walks, seven stolen bases, 16 runs and 13 RBIs for the Wildcats last season. “I went up there and hit with them one time. A couple of days ago, I got a phone call. He (Putman) told me he had a scholarship for me that would pay for full tuition, books and fees.
“Every kid dreams about playing college sports. To be able to say I worked hard enough and I’m able to do that is a great feeling. I’m glad someone saw something in me. It really means a lot to see that my hard work didn’t go unseen. As a kid, that’s what I always wanted to do, and now I’m finally getting to do that. It’s a great feeling.”
Coffey played at JSU in 1992 and minor-league baseball in Sarasota, Fla., before injuries shortened his career. He lives in Oxford and is a regional manager for Minnesota-based Replenex, Inc., an industrial distributor.
“I’ve known Putman my whole life, and I try to send him all the talent I see because there’s a lot of overseen talent down here,” Coffey said.
Coffey recently helped steer Putman to another area baseball talent in former Weaver standout Elijah Smith.
“There are teams around here who have losing records, but just because they have a losing record isn’t the kids’ fault. These kids have potential,” Coffey said.
“I didn’t bring Brian in front of Putman because he’s my nephew. I got him in front of Putman because he has talent. He can hit a ball. Both kids have 4.0s. They’re smart, disciplined, and that’s what Putman likes. He played for (Rudy) Abbott like I did. That’s what you look for (in a college baseball player).”
Giles will play first base at Wallace.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “I feel like it’s going to be a great experience for me, and I’m excited for that experience. Playing first base has a lot of pros and a couple of cons with it, but I want to be the kind of guy that everybody can trust to make that play and be a leader on the team.”