By Thomas Sellers Jr.
A Langford making sports history at Tipton-Rosemark Academy has been done before.
Back in 2013, former TRA Soccer standout Paul Langford inked his letter of intent to The University of Memphis. Paul’s outstanding play on the pitch around Shelby County inspired TRA to start a varsity soccer program.
Fast forward to Dec. 1, Paul was back on campus to witness his baby brother Alex make TRA Baseball history. The senior catcher signed his national letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Alex became the school’s first position player to reach the Division I level and he is the fourth overall Rebel to sign D-I joining pitchers David Owen (Arkansas State), Connor Alexander (Memphis) and current teammate Corey Mitson (Southern Illinois).
“As we learned with our other one, now it’s all out in front of him,” Alex’s father Jim said. “Now he has to go out and prove that he can do what it appears he might be able to do.
“What he needs to learn from his big brother that when he steps on that campus it is like starting all over,” he added. “He has to prove himself again and climb the ladder again. It’s like when he started here in the eighth grade going out there with all the older boys. If he has any hopes to go even higher, it’s going to be that over and over. He’s got to learn to deal with that.”
Alex climbed the ladder in Head Coach Brad Smith’s Rebel program to become one of the best hitters and defensive players of all-time. His stellar play and off-the-field leadership earned him a signing day in front of family members JoAnne Wood (grandmother), Bob Wood (grandfather), Gracey Abney (sister), Avery Abney (niece), KC Abney (brother-in-law), Paul Langford (brother), Emily Langford (sister) and Laura Wood (Aunt).
“He’s done a great job,” Smith said. “Coming in being a freshman starting at the high school level is extremely tough because of the physical demands and the grinds of a baseball season. And you’re talking about a 15-year-old kid that hasn’t had to go through that yet.
“You’re talking about the wear and tear and what it does to you mentally,” he continued. “I ask a lot of my catchers. Since I’ve been here, I’ve worked hand and hand with my catchers so we can have a flow. My goal is for my catcher and pitcher to be in a rhythm and maintain that throughout the course of a ballgame. And that only happens when the coach and catcher are on the same page. And I have asked a lot of him and he has done a great job for us.”
Langford’s growth and development within the Rebel Baseball program has him heading to Arkansas Little-Rock to play for the Trojans and Head Coach Chris Curry. The Trojans are a part of the Sun Belt Conference.
The journey for Langford to Little Rock started when he was old enough to pick up a bat. His parents Mary and Jim said being the youngest made him more aggressive and tailor-made to be a catcher.
Alex watched and learned from his older siblings as they shined in different arts and athletics. Gracey, 24, was into singing. Meanwhile Paul, 22, used soccer to help pave his way in life. And Emily got involved in dancing to express herself.
“It was like he was in a completely different world with soccer,” Alex said of following his big brother. “So I never really felt the pressure of that. But as a person, my big brother has set a great example for me. And I do look up to him. I’ve always tried to be the type of person he is.”
Alex said the guidance of their parents helped all four to grow up in a healthy environment.
“I cannot say enough for what my Mom and Dad have done for us and especially me for my baseball career,” he said. “Whenever we got to a certain age, they told us to pick something that you love, work as hard as you can at it and we’ll do our best to support you in that aspect.
“Without them, there’s no chance I would be here,” he added. “They have put in so much time and effort and material, travel and money and endless amounts of things to help me get to where I am.”
Langford said his days at TRA and involvement in Rebel Baseball also played a big part in him reaching his dream. He has developed countless friendships like with his Smith sharing their love of St. Louis Cardinal Baseball with text messages on a spring night.
“The TRA Baseball family, the TRA school is just a family,” Alex said. “But the baseball team is really close. Coach Smith, Coach Cole and Coach James is another group people the reason why I am here. They have set a high standard for me and have not made it easy on me.
“My teammates have pushed me,” he continued. “People like Corey, Tyler, Parker guys I’ve been playing with for such a long time just make me want to continue to get better. They push me just like I push them. And I love those guys. I love them and I love being able to play with them. I’m excited for one more year.”
After his final TRA campaign in 2018, Langford will be heading to the Natural State to officially make history as the Rebels’ first Division-I position player.
“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “It means a lot. All those hours nobody sees you put in the cage, running, doing fielding work it puts those kind of into perspective. To be able to be the 5’6 kid and have that chip on my shoulder, I just had to go out and do it. Nobody is going to come to me. I have to go out and do it.
“It means a lot,” Langford continued. “It really does. I’m so thankful to the Lord for giving me the ability to play baseball and give me the work ethic and the love of the game.”
Jim said previous family history will assist Alex in his next chapter in life.
“We have four kids,” Jim concluded. “And I’ve come to the decision and conclusion that a lot of who they are comes down to the personality the good Lord has given them. More than the talent, the good Lord has given them a passion. In the end, that passion, determination and perseverance will be what carries him.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.