After a breakout freshman season, Tallassee outfielder Chloe Baynes started racking up the accolades. When all-county honors were followed up by an appearance on the first-team all-state, Baynes thought the awards were over for the season but there was a bigger surprise waiting.
MaxPreps announced its national high school underclass all-American teams at the end of June. Baynes was not only named to the all-freshman team but she was also named the National Freshman Player of the Year.
“I was actually in my hotel room at a softball tournament when my dad told me,” Baynes said. “I thought it was pretty cool at first but I didn’t really process it. It didn’t hit me that I was actually the National Freshman (Player) of the Year until the next day.”
Baynes said the national recognition definitely ranks at the top of her list of highlights from her freshman season. She was one of nine players from Alabama across the three underclassman teams and one of four on the all-freshman team.
“It was great for her and for our program,” Tallassee coach Pat Love said. “She’s really an excellent athlete and she deserves that. She’s as good as a softball player as I’ve seen.”
Baynes set school records last season with 117 hits, 82 stolen bases and a .669 batting average. All three of those stats ranks in the top eight all-time in the AHSAA softball fast pitch record book. Baynes said she keeps an eye on those things but she wants to surpass even those numbers in the future.
“I always look to see who is in front of me,” Baynes said. “In batting average, I have two all-American outfielders from Alabama in Haylie McCleney and Chandler Dare. And in hits, KB Sides is right above me and she’s at Alabama. It’s really cool to see my name next to them.”
Baynes said her dream school is the University of Alabama and with the recognition she got after her freshman season, that dream is starting to look like a realistic possibility. She already has an offer from AUM but those offers are likely to grow to match some of her fellow players on the national all-freshman team which includes commitments to LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA and more.
“I think she can play as high as she wants to play,” Love said. “There’s no doubt she will be playing high Division I softball. We have played against signees from Alabama and Auburn but in my opinion, she’s better than them. She still has things to work on but she’s right where she needs to be right now.”
While playing collegiately is certainly a long-term goal for Baynes, she knows she still has three more seasons with Tallassee ahead of her and she is focused on helping her team reach the state tournament for the first time in school history. While the national recognition will not be forgotten, she said it’s not going to be something she focuses on down the road.
“I’m probably not even going to think about it next year,” Baynes said. “I’ll still try to reach those same goals and those same numbers. As a team, we have really high goals so we’re going to work hard to get there.”
Baynes said she appreciates all the congratulations she has gotten from her family and from around the community but she still wants to improve her game going forward. Love said Baynes has to keep a level head but he does not seem too worried about her staying focused.
“You have to stay humble but I think she can do that,” Love said. “We just have to stay on her and make her keep grinding to get better.”