Holtville’s bats tamed in semifinal loss to Gardendale

Caleb Turrentine / The Herald

Holtville shortstop Bella Farmer throws to first during the Alex Wilcox Tournament semifinals.

The jump from high school athletics to the Division 1 stage can be daunting enough to deal with but now, some of those players are having to deal with a brand new environment as they get ready for the next level.

“It makes me nervous that I may not be prepared,” South Alabama softball signee Bella Farmer said. “I have been working with my dad and sister still. And the coaches know what we’re going through but I’m still worried about what’s going to happen when we get down there.”

Farmer, who saw her senior season at Holtville get cut short, signed with the Jaguars in December and is excited to move on to the next level but after missing out on some extra games on the field, some doubts have started to sink in. Fortunately for Farmer, she is not the only person feeling that way and the help she is receiving has outweighed those doubts.

“It helps a lot to know it’s not just me,” Farmer said. “It makes it easier.”

Since the shutdown happened, Farmer said she has been contacted by several members of the South Alabama staff including head coach Becky Clark. She has also already been in touch with some of her future teammates including some of the players from the Class of 2020 who are going through the same thing as her.

I don’t know what to expect but I’m excited to make new friends and new teammates,” Farmer said. “Just being around new people is exciting. We have a group message with all of the signees and we have been talking recently. It helps a lot because I don’t know what to expect but they don’t know either so its good to know I’m not in that boat by myself.”

Seth Johnson of Wetumpka is dealing with the same thing as he prepares to play baseball at Troy and he said he has already received some encouragement from his teammates.

“The unknown part of whether or not you’re ready makes it tougher but all we can do is to be prepared as we can,” Johnson said. “I’ve talked to some of them to see what they’re doing and how they’re working out. We all want to do all we can to get ready.”

Future teammates are one of the biggest motivational factors for the players making the jump to Division 1 sports. While everyone is being forced to train and work out from home, it’s the contact with each other that gives extra encouragement missing in a typical weight room session.

“I understand working by myself will still help me but I get motivation from my teammates to work harder,” Troy football signee T.J. Jackson said. “I keep in touch with the upcoming freshman class and we talk almost every day. We talk about how we’re working out. It lets me know they are just as motivated. It builds a trust with them.”

The players are not the only ones pushing each other as coaches have reached out to check on the athletes and some have even started making training sessions already for their recruits to get ready for the college.

“We have an app that the trainer uses to send us workouts to do,” Farmer said. “We have to log them and show what we have done. It’s been a lot of reps so far.”

“They call me every couple of days to make sure I’m still saying in shape and getting ready for those summer workouts,” Jackson said of the Troy coaches. “They sent out a workout plan for us to get started on. I feel like it’s going to be challenging but I know with my work ethic, I’m going to adjust.”

Many coaches are going beyond making sure their players are going to be ready for the physical aspects of the game. Johnson, along with Farmer and Jackson, said they have had coaches personally check in to see how he was handling everything after the season ended.

“I talked to (Troy) coach (Mark) Smartt the other day and he told me to not stress about being behind or not thinking I’m ready,” Johnson said. “When we get there, they’re going to have a program set up to get us prepared for the season. I know they will have everything figured out. Everyone is in the same boat right now.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.