By Rubin E. Grant
A year ago, Lee Hall had his doubts about accepting the Homewood baseball coaching job.
It wasn’t because he didn’t think it was a good opportunity, but because of his son Josh.
Lee Hall had been the head coach at Randolph High in Huntsville and Josh had been a standout center fielder on the team for three seasons.
“I had my reservations about uprooting him for his senior year,” coach Hall said.
Hall, who formerly coached at Briarwood Christian, eventually decided it was a worthwhile move, and Josh’s one season at Homewood turned out magnificently.
They younger Hall broke two state records and a national record this spring. He broke the Alabama High School Athletic Association single-season stolen base record with 82 (in 84 attempts), eclipsing his own record of 81, set in 2016. He broke the AHSAA career record with 224 steals, shattering the old record of 164 set by Slocumb’s Scottie Burdeshaw from 2005-10. And, finally, he broke the national record of 211 steals that previously was held by Haddon McIntosh of Norman Community School in Oklahoma, who played from 2013-2016.
“It’s pretty cool,” Josh Hall said of owning the national record.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound lefty swinging Hall hit .500 (57 of 114) with four home runs and 26 RBIs from the lead-off spot. He had an on-base percentage of .613 with 30 walks and only 12 strikeouts. He also put together a 24-game hitting streak, and in 40 games he was hitless in only three games.
Hall, who will play college baseball at Ole Miss, helped lead Homewood to the most regular season wins, 25, and the most overall wins, 29, in school history.
For his marvelous season, Hall is the Over the Mountain Journal’s Co-Player of the Year, along with Hoover’s Sonny DiChiara. Lee Hall is the OTMJ Coach of the Year.
“I don’t think I could have written a better storybook script for the year Josh had and not just on the field, but the acceptance of his teammates and classmates as well as living in the Homewood community and going to Homewood High School,” Lee Hall said. “He told me it was the best move of his life and he finally had a place to call home.”
Josh Hall described the move to Homewood in similar terms.
“It’s the best year of my life,” he said. “My teammates made it very enjoyable, playing with a group of guys who love each other and will do anything for each other. When I think back on my high school career, I will think about this year.”
Josh Hall embraced the challenge of performing at a bigger school, jumping from Class 4A at Randolph in 2017 to Class 6A Homewood.
“I surprised myself a little bit,” he said. “Going from 4A to 6A wasn’t that big of a deal because I played against really good competition during the summer. But I didn’t expect to have the year I had.”
Dad’s Year Wasn’t Bad, Either
His dad didn’t expect the Patriots to have the kind of season they had, either, reaching the Class 6A quarterfinals before being eliminated by perennial power Cullman.
“When we came in, looking at the numbers, I knew they had had a good season the year before,” Lee Hall said. “But we had only 13 innings coming back on the mound and just 8 percent of the offense. When you looked at it on paper, you could say we had a long way to go. But I knew we were going into it with 12 seniors, who sold out and bought into everything we were doing and made it a fun season.
“Starting off with the schedule we had, I knew it would be tough early and with the inexperience we had we would take our lumps. But after we got through our first five, six, seven games, we started gaining confidence. We went beyond what I expected us to do.”
He said being named the OTMJ Coach of the Year was a blessing.
“I have won some awards, but this one is the most special because I get to share it with Josh,” coach Hall said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Josh Hall had a similar response. “With this being my last year, to share this honor with him is pretty special,” he said.