BASEBALL: Caleb Hopkins all smiles after signing with Hiwassee

Amanda and David Mabe were among those in attendance as Gordon Lee senior Caleb Hopkins signed on to play baseball at Hiwassee College. Also on hand for the ceremony was Gordon Lee athletic director Todd Windham, Gordon Lee assistant coach Derek McDaniel, Gordon Lee principal Michael Langston and Gordon Lee head coach Mike Dunfee, (Photo by Scott Herpst)

Gordon Lee head baseball coach Mike Dunfee said the first thing he noticed about Caleb Hopkins during Hopkins' freshman year was the near-permanent smile that the rookie had on his face as he showed his passion for the game.

Hopkins had another big smile on his face Thursday afternoon as the senior signed papers to continue his career in college.

The left-handed first baseman, who helped the Navy-and-White advance to the Class A Public School state finals last season, will be headed to Madisonville, Tennessee next fall to begin his collegiate career as a Hiwassee Tiger.

"I was a little worried thinking that the last game of my senior year was going to be the last time I ever put on cleats," Hopkins said. "I didn't want that to be the case so it feels good to sign. I'm ready to get this season going and ready to start playing."

The junior established himself as one of the Trojans’ offensive leaders with a .341 average last spring to go with 11 doubles, two triples, two homers and 20 RBIs as he earned Walker County Dream Team first team status.

"Caleb is a good, hardworking kid," Dunfee explained. "He just loves the game. He had a smile on his face no matter what we did that first year. He really truly loves the game and he has worked his tail off. I'm just so happy for him.

"We're going to rely on him on the mound again some this upcoming season, but he's been an excellent first baseman for us the past few years. He can play some outfield, but he's more natural and more comfortable at first base, which is where he'll play (at Hiwassee). He did well for us last year, but I think he's going to step up and do even more for us this year."

Hopkins said he loved Hiwassee's hometown feel.

"I felt like home when I visited," he added. "It felt like I'd only driven about 15 minutes outside of Chickamauga. That's what I like most about it. Hopefully I can bring some hitting to their program. They have a pretty solid program, going to World Series two years in a row, and they've been recruiting a lot of guys from around here."

Hiwassee's current roster includes players from LFO, LaFayette, Heritage, Ridgeland and Northwest Whitfield.

Hopkins said he plans to major in Business.