Until recently, Devante Dixon had never taken a trip to Colorado, but his first visit there capped a baseball experience he’ll never forget.
The former Cedar Bluff and current Wallace State in Dothan baseball player earned the trip to Grand Junction to play in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series in late May. The Governors went 1-2 in the double-elimination tournament, held at Sam Suplizio Field, home of the Minor League Baseball Rookie-Level Grand Junction Rockies.
The Governors lost to Cowley County Community College from Arkansas City, Kansas 13-5 in eight innings in their opening game on May 27, then rebounded to defeat College of Southern Nevada 11-3 in eight innings a day later.
The Governors’ season came to an end against Crowder College of Missouri in a 10-7 defeat on May 29.
“Coming from a little town, I never expected to play in a World Series, but it was awesome,” Dixon said. “Everywhere you went you were surrounded by mountains. You’d look out the window and you’d see a mountain. Practicing before a game, you’d see a mountain. Everyone in Grand Junction loves baseball. You’d have people stop you on the side of the road to tell you they’re rooting for you, a little town from Alabama. It was just so perfect.”
Although Dixon and the Governors didn’t have the perfect ending of a championship, it was still one for the school record books. Not only did the Governors clinch their first ever berth in the NJCAA World Series, they also won the Alabama Community College Conference baseball tournament championship with a 3-2 victory over Faulkner State on May 17. It was the first state championship for head coach and former Major League Baseball player Mackey Sasser, who also picked up his 600th career win earlier in the season.
Not a bad way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wallace-Dothan baseball program, which finished with a 43-21 record this season.
“It was great to bring something special to Dothan,” Dixon said.
It was also a special season for Dixon. The sophomore was originally slated to be a relief pitcher this season, but was thrust into the Governors’ No. 2 starter role early in the season.
“Our game two starter went down. He had a blister on his finger the majority of the season,” Dixon said. “The first game I started was a conference game against LBW (Lurleen B. Wallace). I kind of had to pace myself. As a reliever, you don’t have to throw many pitches as a starter. You have to pace yourself the whole game.”
Dixon, who also played at second when he wasn’t pitching this season, finished with a 4-4 record with a pair of saves and 42 strikeouts in 53 innings.
“When I got here, I had to change my arm spot. I kind of brought it down to a sidearm,” Dixon said. “When I was at Cedar Bluff I threw over the top. They’ve kind of made my into a different pitcher here.”
Dixon’s development as a baseball player this season could help him continue his college career. He said he’s fielded offers from Kennesaw State, Gardner-Webb, Eastern Kentucky and the University of Alabama at Huntsville.
But no matter where he winds up, those who follow his career from Cedar Bluff will always know Dixon as their “Bubba”.
“It’s amazing to know you’ve got people everywhere rooting for you, especially my hometown,” he said. “In order to have this feeling you’d have to be in my shoes. It’s just an amazing feeling.”