Saturday, July 26, 2014

Freshman standout up ‘Close’

Alex Close has provided a reliable bat in the No. 5 slot, as well as a solid glove at first base

The Liberty Flames baseball team has enjoyed a steady flow of offense this season and has even found power in some unexpected places. That power source is Alex Close.

Power — Close (12) has become a major part of the Flames offense, leading the team with six home runs this season. Photo credit: Nate Brown

A freshman who opened the season playing sparingly at three different positions, Close is now the team’s everyday first baseman, thanks mostly to his batting skills. He leads the team with six home runs.

“I’ve been working with coach (Matt) Hagen on staying back and getting power in my swing,” Close said. “It’s been paying off.”

An extra bonus that came from Close’s power surge was more playing time.

“It’s awesome,” Close said. “I’ve played a lot more than I thought I was going to coming into the year. It’s been a blessing, and hopefully I can continue to do whatever is necessary to help us win.”

Earlier in the season, Close started a game on the mound and caught a few innings as well.

Even more impressive is that it took two injuries for Close to get his chance. Catcher Danny Grauer began the season injured, forcing first baseman and catcher Trey Wimmer behind the plate. Close and Ryan Cordell then split time at first base, but Cordell became Michael Robertson’s replacement in right field when Robertson was lost for the year with a leg injury, opening the door for Close.

“He (Robertson) actually got hurt diving into third,” Close said. “He stole third, and I was on first. I stole behind him, and it got me my first stolen base. I always give him a hard time about that.”

Speed may not be Close’s strong suit, but offense is a different story.

“I just love to hit,” Close said. “There’s no other way to put that one.”

Some freshmen might have gotten caught up in offensive statistics, but Close retains his team-oriented mindset.

“I think the highlight of my season has got to be just the amount of wins we’ve had, and seeing so many guys succeed at so many different things has been kind of cool to see as a freshman.”

Close is a business finance major from Hoover, Ala. and, like most freshmen, he still has a few years to figure out what he wants to do after college.

“I don’t really know, to be honest,” Close said. “I’ll probably end up somewhere down south again, in the business world.”

When his playing days are over, he’s not sure whether baseball will have anything to do with his career, but he is certainly open to the idea.

“I’m not 100 percent sure yet,” Close said. “I’d love to be involved in the game somehow.”

He lived in Georgia until his move to Alabama during his junior year of high school, which explains why his favorite baseball team is the Atlanta Braves. Close used to travel down to Atlanta and see his favorite player, Chipper Jones, play all the time. He also enjoys watching basketball and football in his free time.

Halfway through his first year as a college baseball player, Close’s favorite part about the collegiate game is the environment.

“Every single game, it feels like it’s a battle, and there’s so much on the line,” Close said.

As the end of the season approaches, he is looking forward to participating in his first conference tournament and, hopefully, his first regional. If the team does get that far, Close will be an important part of the battle.

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