The Atlanta Braves list pitcher Kolby Allard’s hometown as Anaheim, California. On a visit to Anaheim, one could go to the Honda Center to see the NHL’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks, to Angels Stadium to see the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or to Disneyland.
Ah, Disneyland, the place where dreams come true. Allard has a dream. It’s a dream he shares with his high school battery mate, Lucas Herbert. The dream is for the pair to team up once again, not at San Clemente High School, but this time at SunTrust Park, the soon to be new home of the Atlanta Braves.
Before you begin thinking the two have spent too much time in Fantasyland, consider the fact that the pitcher-catcher combo was the only such combo selected to the USA Preseason High School Baseball team. They also teamed up on the 18U Team USA to bring home gold in the Pan-American games.
So when the June 2015 major league baseball draft was held, the dream took a giant step toward reality when the Braves used the 14th pick in the draft to grab Allard and the 54th pick to select Herbert, considered the top defensive catcher in the draft. The pair, who was on board to attend UCLA, turned in their letter jackets before their first class was taken. Allard, who described his hometown as a California beach community, said the Braves picks’ were “super cool.”
“Lucas has been my best friend for the last couple of years,” said Allard. “We had our draft parties together and all our friends were there. It’s a very, very cool thing to think we might take the field together. That’s the dream.”
The dream almost disappeared in a cloud of pixie dust when Allard “tweaked” his back while swinging at a pitch in March of his senior year. The tweak wound up being a stress fracture and Allard took a seat on the bench for the rest of the season.
Allard’s junior year on the mound followed by his accomplishments with Team USA had the southpaw listed as the top-ranked left hander coming into the season, but the back issue scared off some of the suitors. “I was looking forward to a great year and obviously that didn’t work out,” said Allard. Despite reports of a surgery to correct the issue, Allard said the only corrective procedures were rest and rehabilitation.
When the draft was held, Allard, who had been projected as the fourth pick, dropped all the way to number 14, but right to the team he wanted to play for, the Braves. “I really liked what the Braves were doing and I was hoping that’s where I would go,” said Allard.
The Braves’ pick was risky considering the medical problems encountered by Allard and the risk appeared even greater when Allard said the back starting “bugging” him again, which did lead to a minor surgery. Allard said he has put his medical history in the rear view mirror and he feels really good now.
Thursday night’s performance supported Allard’s conviction that he was feeling really good as he mixed a good curveball and change with a fastball reaching as much as 96 m.p.h. on the gun in his six innings of shutout work. Allard allowed two hits while striking out five and walking one.
Allard, who admits to being his own worst critic, could not find fault with outing. “I thought I threw it really well,” said Allard. “As long as you are putting zeros on the scoreboard, you are giving your team a chance to win the game.”
While the number zero is of obvious importance to Allard, the other numbers don’t mean as much to the 18-year old left-hander. Allard’s signing bonus for penning the contract with the Braves was a three, followed by six of the all-important zeroes, but Allard said it was just a number.
“My family raised me right,” said Allard. “I’m not going to get all cocky just because of a number,” he said. Although “the number” is seven digits in the making, Allard said he just enjoyed playing, whether it was for three million or for ten dollars. A small portion of the money was used to purchase a new car, but the rest is in the hands of a “good group of financial guys,” friends of Allard’s parents.
His parents, Kenny and Kristi, although still living on the west coast with Kolby’s younger brother, a rising sophomore at San Clemente High, make their way east as often as possible to check on their son’s progress. His father was in attendance at Thursday night’s game.
Speaking of numbers, when Allard took the mound Thursday night, he was sporting the number 22, the same number as another left-handed pitcher from Southern California, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
Allard said it was just coincidence, although he gave Kershaw his dues. “That was the jersey that was hanging in my locker when I got here,” said Allard. “My number is actually 20, but he (Kershaw) is the best pitcher in the game. I hope to someday pitch against him.”
Perhaps, but that’s a ride best suited for Tomorrowland.
Extra Innings…Two stories that came out of last week’s round table with Dave Foster, Jack Bryant, and Steve Welch. When Dave Foster was growing up in Ringgold, there was very little baseball available during the summer. Foster said an entire season might be a half-dozen to a dozen games. The baseball coach at Dan River High School, Jack Myers, had noticed Foster and encouraged him to play Danville Little League where he could play a full summer schedule. The only problem was you had to live in the city in order to play.
Myers, a city resident, had a solution. He would list Foster as living in his home. “I became David Foster of Bernard Court,” said Foster. “I played two years under the assumed address until they finally caught up with me,” said Foster. “When they figured out I lived in the county, they grandfathered me in and allowed me to keep playing.”
Jack Bryant played on the national championship team at Wake Forest in 1955. His coach was Taylor Sanford, a native of Chatham. His father was the founder of Chatham Training School, that later became Hargrave Military Academy. Bryant said Sanford had one rule that Sanford said he would never break. “He said whatever else happened, we would never practice or play on Sunday,” Bryant remembered.
When Wake Forest got to Omaha to participate in the College World Series, at the end of the first weekend the Deacons were scheduled to play on Sunday. Sanford wired back to campus to ask what to do and he received a response from the Baptist college directing him to forfeit the Sunday game. Sanford went against the wishes of the school, played the game and eventually won the national championship.
The next year Sanford was forced to resign. Bryant said the school claimed it wanted him to teach more classes and he did not have the proper credentials, but everyone knew he was forced out for playing on Sunday.