Charles Henderson’s Stephens inks with Central Alabama

Published 10:25 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Charles Henderson head coach Derek Irons can’t help but get excited when talking about his “6’6 lefty,” but Wednesday was even more special than usual.

John Michael Stephens, a senior pitcher for the Charles Henderson Trojans, signed a scholarship to Central Alabama Community College to continue his baseball career at the next level.

Stephens, nicknamed Shaggy because his tall, lean frame and reddish-blonde hair bares a striking resemblance to the Scooby Doo character, is excited to keep playing the game he loves.

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“It is definitely something that I have always dreamed about,” said Stephens with an ear-to-ear grin. “I love the game of baseball and can’t wait to continue my career with Central Alabama. It is nice to go ahead and sign today, and I am really thankful for CACC to give me this opportunity.”

Stephens went 3-0 on the mound during his junior season at Charles Henderson. He struck out 23 batters in just 14 innings pitched, including 10 against Brantley in the team’s last regular season game. He also allowed only eight hits, with none of those going for extra bases.

Stephens also worked two innings in relief during a long, rain-soaked game in the third round of the playoffs against Beauregard.

Irons said Stephens would have been used more in the playoffs, but the Trojans were never forced to send him to the mound.

“John Michael came to us kind of late last year due to playing basketball,” Irons said. “He was our solid No. 3 guy in the rotation, but he never was called in to work because our front line guys were so good. He will be a big contributor for us this year, and I look forward to following his career at the next level.”

Stephens spent the summer taking part in various baseball showcases across the South and has worked out for the coaches at Central Alabama on multiple occasions during the fall.

Central Alabama captured the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship last season and has won the Alabama state championship on three different occasions.

The Trojan-to-Trojan connection has worked well for CACC, as multiple Charles Henderson alumni, including former The Messenger Player of the Year Jalin Lawson, dotting the diamond over recent years.

CACC assistant coach Michael Dugan said he, and the rest of the coaching staff, like to recruit and sign Charles Henderson players.

“Coach Irons does a great job developing players and teaching them the right way to play the game,” said Dugan. “We love to get players from this program because they are ready to get going as soon as they get to us. We don’t have to spend time reteaching the game. There is always a lot of talent in this part of the state.”

Despite being just a three-pitch pitcher, Stephens feels he can be successful at the next level, and said he likes having his size on his side.

“All I have are a fastball, a curve and a changeup,” Stephens said. “I can throw all of them for strikes, and feel I have really good command of the plate. I also feel I intimidate batters a little being so tall. I’m over six feet, and the mound is another three feet. I am able to be five or six feet closer to the plate at the end of my release which helps me as a pitcher.”

Stephens signing marks the fifth different member of the 2013 4A state championship team to continue their baseball career at the next level. Two others, Hunter Baggett and Chase Smartt, are also verbally committed to colleges as well.