Valley High: building a culture of baseball success

Published 8:06 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

VALLEY — With Valley High’s basketball team making a strong run to a long elusive state title, the school’s baseball team is set to start their season on Thursday afternoon at historic Crestview Ballpark. Coaches and players are excited about a chance to improve on last year’s 14-8 record and possibly making a run in post-season play.

Ryan Meadows, an assistant coach with the varsity team, was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. He’s enthused about both this year’s varsity squad and the JV team. He’s the head coach of those guys. Many of those on the JV team are eighth graders at W.F. Burns this year. They formed the core of the team that won a youth World Series championship in North Carolina several years ago.

The varsity team is blessed to have one of the most highly rated high school pitchers in the country. Jaxon Sanders could go very high in next year’s Major League baseball draft.

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Meadows said that he and his dad talk a lot about building a culture for the Valley baseball program. Being a baseball coach at Valley High is a dream come true for him. He graduated from VHS in 2017 and was a member of a very good baseball team the school had that year. He earned a scholarship to Huntingdon College in Montgomery, where he played for four years.

He started college with the ambition of having a career in physical therapy, but by his sophomore year he knew that he wanted to be a baseball coach. 

He’s not only doing the at his alma mater but is coaching alongside his dad, head varsity coach Mike Meadows.

In Meadows’ senior year at Valley High, the Rams hosted a playoff game in baseball for the first time since his dad was a player at the school. Father and son would like to see Valley High have a perennially strong baseball team and to be in the playoffs every year.

What will it take to do that? “A lot of hard work on part of the players and the coaches,” Meadows said. “We have to put a lot of hours into it and to always learn from our mistakes.”

Meadows’ dad started out in a difficult spot last year. He was named head baseball coach only a few weeks before the team’s first game. Despite that, the team had a decent season, going 14-8. They made the playoffs but were eliminated by a very good Wetumpka team that had nine players sign college scholarships.

The JV team had a 14-8 record as well. That team was dominated by seventh graders. 

“They learned a lot last year,” Ryan said. “We could have easily been 18-4. They learned a lot from their mistakes, and it should pay off this year.”

There are five seniors on this year’s varsity team. Two of them, Trevor Rudd and Cullen Kennedy, spoke to the club on Wednesday. Rudd is a three-year starter at catcher. He batted .477 last season and has a chance to continue playing baseball at Meadows’ school, Huntingdon. Rudd said that he had been through some tough seasons when he was in the ninth and tenth grades but saw some big improvement last year. “

We now have something that will last,” he said. “Our coaches have helped us so much and that means a lot.”

Meadows said that opposing coaches are always telling him that Crestview Ballpark is a special place and they love playing in such a historic ballpark. Crestview dates to Chattahoochee Mill League play in the early 20th century. At one time, every mill village in the Valley had a ballpark with a grandstand. Crestview is the only one left.

“I love working at the school I attended and coaching the younger brothers and cousins of guys I played with at Valley High,” Meadows said. “It’s been a blessing for me to be able to do what I love doing at the school I love. I’m really looking forward to this season. I believe that both the varsity and junior varsity teams can do something really special this year. It’s so good to be able to coach under my dad.”

One of the biggest supporters of Valley High baseball is Billy Meadows, the former president of the Chambers County School Board. He’s Mike’s dad and Ryan’s granddad.

The season opens at 4 p.m. Thursday at Crestview. Meadows is hoping the game can be completed before some predicted rain comes in. 

“The weather has been a problem for us in getting ready for the season,” he said. “We have gotten so much rain. You can’t practice in the rain and the field will be messed up the next day.”

People going to Valley home games need to know that no cash will be accepted at the gate. Tickets have to be paid for in advance. This can be done by going to an app on the school’s Facebook page. There’s a QR code there that can be scanned.

Crestview is a classic place that has some new looks. There’s a new field house next to the batting cages. The old field house is still there and is being used for storage.

The school will have a baseball camp later on for the kids. “We did it last year, and they loved it,” Meadows said. “This is something we want to keep doing. It’s part of building the culture for Valley baseball.”

Meadows said he can’t wait for Thursday afternoon to get here. “We’ve been getting ready for this for the past five weeks,” he said.