Crawford, Baird sign with Snead
Russellville catcher Torey Baird and fielder/pitcher Matthew Crawford will be donning blue-and-gold next season, instead of the Golden Tigers' familiar black-and-gold.
Both Baird and Crawford signed scholarships Tuesday morning to play with Snead State in front of their parents and coaches in the RHS Field House.
Baird, who batted .443 with 41 RBIs and two home runs last season, said the signing day highlighted the school's baseball program.
"This says a lot about our baseball program, and I think about every senior on this team has a chance to get a scholarship," said Baird, who listed his strengths as hitting and blocking pitches and wants to lower his throw to second base to 1.9 seconds season. "Matt and I have been playing together since we were six years old, and I'm really happy he's going to play at Snead State, too."
Crawford said he's also looking forward to playing with Baird in college.
"With both of us signing with the same school, it makes this so much sweeter," said Crawford, who batted .375 with 24 RBIs and also earned a victory on the mound for the Golden Tigers, who finished as the area champions and reached the Class 5A semifinals last season. "Just to be able to play college ball, is a dream come true – Coach (David) Ward calls it 'big boy baseball' since it's going to take a lot more focus at the next level.
"But the big thing right now is focusing on this season, because (the seniors) need to finish what we started – we didn't come this far to fall short, and I would love to have the chance to play Cullman again and win the state championship."
Snead State coach Gerry Ledbetter said he was most impressed by their love for the game.
"Torey is a very good hitter, and he's competitive, and Matthew's going to be a good pitcher for us because he hits his spots and has good off-speed pitches," said Ledbetter, who expects Baird to see playing time at catcher, designated hitter, first base and third base, while Crawford will be used primarily as a pitcher. "If a player doesn't really want to be there (in college), then he's wasting our time. We were looking for kids who love the game, and both of them really want to play. Coach Ward and I used to coach against each other and we're good friends, so when he tells me about a player, I listen."
Ward said he expects at least four or five more seniors to sign this year and describes Baird, Crawford and Corey Flanagan, who also signed Tuesday, as highly competitive.
"Torey has a good arm, and he does a great job blocking balls in the dirt – and he swings the bat well. Matt pitches a lot for us and he can play several different field positions," Ward said. "I want my players to get an education, and all three of them are good students. The main thing about these guys is they're competitive and hard workers, and I'm proud of all of them."
Baird is the son of Ken and Valerie Baird of Russellville.
Crawford is the son of LaWanda and Thomas Greenhill and Neely Crawford of Russellville.