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MOUNT WASHINGTON - The dream became reality on Wednesday for Bullitt East baseball standout Brandon Alphin when he put his name on the dotted line to play next season for the University of Louisville.
Alphin had committed to the Cardinals back in June during Bullitt East’s big post-season run that saw the red and gold reach the semi-finals of the State Baseball Tournament.
Alphin becomes the first Bullitt County baseball player to ever sign a Division I scholarship.
While there were no surprises on Wednesday, the signing was as much a celebration as a relief for the senior. There were no injuries or coaching changes that could have suddenly altered the dream.
There was also no second-guessing once he had committed to Louisville, a program that just three seasons ago was playing in the College World Series and last year reached a Super Regional before being eliminated in California.
“It was U of L all the way,” Alphin said after the ceremony in the Bullitt East Media Center on Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period for baseball players.
"If I had a bad game or something (during the summer) my dad joked about it with me that they had forgotten about me, but it was U of L all the way,” the senior added. “I talk to them about once a week by phone or email.”
Louisville was always a dream destination.
“I want to go to U of L so my parents can watch me play,” Alphin noted. “It’s just 20 or 30 minutes away.”
The 17-year old son of Kim and Corey Alphin has already played ten games at the University of Louisville’s Jim Patterson Stadium as well as attending baseball camps at the school.
This accomplishment is no surprise to Bullitt East head coach Jeff Bowles.
“I guess you can say you saw it coming,” the veteran coach said. “When they start as a freshman and are hitting third, that means they will probably play at the next level. He is right where I thought he would be.”
The signing was another step in Alphin’s baseball career. Before he made it official, there was a short film bio with pictures from is earliest childhood games to pitching in the state tournament last June in Lexington.
After the ceremony Alphin remembered being 4-years old and going to his grandmother’s house and she would toss him whiffle balls that he would hit.
“It took off from there,” he said with a smile.
From the time he was 5-years old until he was 10, he played in the Mount Washington Youth League, but then he switched to playing for the Central Kentucky Comets, a traveling team that also included Bullitt East teammate Matt Bowles and was coached by Charger head man Jeff Bowles. As 11-year olds, that team was the Kentucky AAU State Champions.
By the time he was a freshman at Bullitt East, Alphin was in the starting line-up for the Chargers and was batting third. He hasn’t left that spot since. Now he is a leading contender for Mr. Baseball honors next spring.
As a junior, Alphin had an 8-4 record as a pitcher despite facing some of the top programs in the state. His nearly 90 mile an hour fastball helped him finish the season with a 2.75 ERA in 76 innings of work. Opposing batters had only a .204 batting average.
It is hard to project Alphin to the next level because he does just about everything well. His head coach calls him one of the best fielding third basemen he has ever seen.
Perhaps all of that news pales when you also see that Alphin had a .477 batting average with a .595 on-base percentage during the 2009 season on a team that went 31-9. In 158 plate appearances (130 at-bats) last spring, he struck out just nine times. He belted seven home runs and had 21 doubles. Alphin also stole seven bases.
At this point, Alphin said that the Cardinals were going to list him as both a pitcher and a field position player. That is pretty unusual for the college level.
“They still want me to do both,” Alphin said. “When they release the names and the public relations stuff (on the signing) they said they will list me as both. I don’t really have a preference.”
Jeff Bowles is not sure that a decision of that magnitude is needed at this point.
“There are a lot of coaches smarter than me and get paid a lot more but it seems to me that it would be the ultimate compliment to go on to that level and do both,” the coach said. “It’s tough to decide what he doesn’t do well.”
Once Bullitt East ended its season last summer, Alphin moved on to play for the Louisville Baseball Club, a squad organized and coached by his father and Roger Robinson. In the fall, he played some games with the Bullitt East Fall Ball team, but he didn’t pitch during that time.
“The summer stuff went pretty well,” the senior said. “In Fall Ball that didn’t go as well. I wasn’t hitting it good. I could have hit it better.”
As a sophomore, Alphin had a 1.49 ERA with a 7-2 record. Opposing batters hit only .177 against him. At the plate, he had a .370 average with five home runs and 28 runs batted in.
Baseball is now on hold for Alphin as he has decided to play one more year of basketball. Back when he first committed to the Cardinals he was unsure if he would play basketball as a senior.
Alphin has a younger sister, Madison, who attends Pleasant Grove Elementary.
Alphin has already qualified academically to compete for Louisville. He hopes to major in Sports Administration or something that involves sports.