Unique opportunity

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kris Lowrey woke up on May 25 with a 101-degree temperature but played in the East-West baseball all-star game anyway.

Though only an exhibition, performing well in the East-West event can earn a high school senior a scholarship or invitation to walk on, or provide an underclassmen valuable experience against the state’s best competition.

“You get to play three or four extra games, be around the best talent in the state and be around college coaches,” Chilton County coach Josey Shannon said about the event.

Four local players—Lowrey from Jemison and T.J. Henley, Tanner Powell and Justin Veazey from Chilton County—will represent the Central Alabama squad that will play the Birmingham Metro team at 7 p.m. Friday at Samford University in the final round of the East-West tournament. Shannon and Jemison’s Jason Easterling will help coach the Central Alabama team.

The North and South teams will play at 4 p.m. Friday at Samford. A consolation game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, and the championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

But East-West is an exception to an old sports adage because individual performances are more important than team results.

Especially for players, such as Lowrey and Veazey, that have exhausted their high school eligibility.

“I’m looking for whatever I can get out of it,” said Veazey, who has already been invited to walk on by Wallace Community College-Selma.

Lowrey takes his baseball future so seriously that, in addition to playing in the previous round despite the fever, he’s delaying from Friday until Sunday his departure for a senior trip to Panama City.

“I’m just glad to have a chance to play,” Lowrey said. “I’m hoping this weekend really helps me out.”

Even for players, such as Henley and Powell, that aren’t immediately searching for a college to play for, the experience can be helpful.

“This weekend, I’m sure it’s going to be the best of the best,” Henley said. “I feel like I can compete and my teammates can compete.”

“It’s going to be a pretty good group of guys,” Powell said. “I’m sure we’ll meet up with a bunch of these guys again, so we’ll see how we can do.”

In most cases, players must be versatile to advance in the East-West tournament. Henley, for example, played left field, right field and third base and pitched in Monday’s games at Clanton’s Jack Hayes Field. Veazey played catcher and all three outfield positions.

Lowrey will play bat and play in the field, but his focus is pitching.

“He has the ability to pitch lights out anytime he steps on the field,” Easterling said.