A baseball diamond doesn’t have a roof, walls, pets or family but for Ardmore baseball players Dalen Hall and Sebastien Nelson — it’s home.
It’s a place where they grew up, met friends, felt the shame and disappointment of striking out in little league and the joy of feeling a baseball squish against the sweet spot of their bats, instantly knowing it would soon be gone.
For most players, the sport becomes a pastime by high school.
Hall and Jones are the exceptions to that rule now.
The two Ardmore standouts sat side-by-side in Ardmore High School’s entryway, surrounded by friends, teammates and family, as they scribbled their autographs on a pair of National Letter of Intents, following the same dream on paths taking them 1,128 miles apart.
Pitcher and infielder Dalen Hall signed to play baseball for Murray State College in Tishomingo. Sebastien Nelson signed with Penn State New Kensington in Pennsylvania where he’ll continue to play first base.
While he said it will be nice going to school 30 minutes away from family and friends, Hall said the main reason he wanted to sign with Murray State is the baseball program’s track record of churning out division-I pitchers and hitters in two years.
“I think it’s pretty awesome that I can drive 30 minutes and be on a really good program,” Hall said. “They had guys this year from Ohio, Louisiana, Texas all over. They just know it’s a program that’s historically good. Murray State produces a lot of D-I guys. That’s what I want to do.”
Hall was Ardmore’s best player this year on the mound and at the plate. At Murray State he said he’ll play both ways, but was told by the coach that the place he can make an immediate impact is the pitching mound.
Hall closed out his senior season with a 2.1 ERA and 98 strikeouts for a 4-6 record this year. The Tigers went 6-21 this season.
“I think if Dalen can get his fastball up [from 88] to 90-95, he’ll be looking at Division I ball,” Ardmore coach Vic Brumley said.
At the plate Hall also flourished, finishing with a .466 batting average, getting on base 61 percent of the time and driving in 29 RBI with four home runs carrying a slugging percentage of .862.
While he said signing his National Letter of Intent was the realization of a dream, Hall said there’s more to come.
“It’s just the beginning,” Hall said. “I want to keep playing baseball for as long as I can. Hopefully after two years, once I put in the work, just spend two years on my craft andget my velocity and power up, I’ll have a chance to play baseball a little longer.”
“I will play this game for as long as I possibly can.”
While Murray State College found Hall in its own backyard, with coaches watching his career develop up close and personal, Sebastien Nelson, Ardmore’s first baseman, was noticed from thousands of miles away.
His recruiting profile caught the attention of Penn State New Kensington baseball coach Jim Perry from his office in Pennsylvania. An email, an offer and a signing later, Nelson was on his way to taking his baseball career to the Northeast.
“It’s a dream come true really,” Nelson said. “I didn’t think I’d have this chance. A couple colleges were looking at me. But I was worried, that I wasn’t going to get signed or play college baseball. This is amazing.”
Nelson said Penn State New Kensington, one of the 24 separate schools under the Penn State umbrella, didn’t have a track record of dipping into Southern Oklahoma’s talent pool, considering the drive to Ardmore takes around 18 hours.
But with the internet, Nelson said his profile caught the attention of coach Perry. And after taking a two-hour flight to see the campus and meet the team, the first baseman found a home.
The campus was just right, Nelson said.
“It’s not too big or too small,” Nelson said. “I got to meet the team and it was great getting to know them and hearing what they’re about. I think I’m a good fit.”
Nelson said what coach Perry liked about him as a player were his intangibles and his ability at the plate
“I’ve always been told I’m coachable,” Nelson said. “I don’t question I just do it. I’ve been known for my bat too. When people look at me they think, ‘he can hit.’ Most days I prove them right.”
Nelson finished his senior campaign with a .232 batting average, and a .862 fielding percentage at first base.