WALNUT RIDGE, AR (TD.com) - Friday, May 24, held two momentous events for Payton Poole. On that morning he signed a scholarship commitment to play baseball for the Williams Baptist College Eagles of Walnut Ridge, and that evening, he graduated from Walnut Ridge High School.
Poole is one of several standout athletes in his graduating class who excelled, not only in baseball, but in football and basketball as well. He is the third athlete in his class who has signed to play college baseball.
Frank Lee, Williams' baseball coach, had begun suggesting the idea of Poole playing for the Eagles just about six weeks earlier.
"I first thought he was kidding," Poole said.
Lee said that Poole had a very good sophomore year in baseball and has improved throughout his senior year. In September of his junior year, Poole suffered a severe knee injury while quarterbacking the football Bobcats. The injury would sideline him from all sports for the remainder of his junior year.
"Coming back from an injury like he did shows the intrinsic motivation he has," Lee said. "To be a college player, you've got to have a desire. He's very athletic, very coachable."
Derek Bramlett, WRHS Bobcat baseball coach, said, "Payton has really come on this year." He noted that as the season progressed, Poole was running better and batting better.
"If he is dedicated full-time to baseball, he has a lot of potential," Bramlett added.
Poole has played at first base for the Bobcats, and that is where Lee is looking at playing him.
Lee noted, "He's got a very strong bat." Bramlett agreed and said, "He's got a lot of power from his right side. He plays well, definitely at first base, and he's a real good kid. That's a big plus."
Poole said he is "very excited" to be playing baseball at Williams.
"Missing my junior year, I'm not tired of baseball. It's a lot of fun. I'm glad I get the opportunity to go out there (to Williams.)"
Family members present for the signing were Payton's mother, Blair, and Jerry Ballard of Walnut Ridge, his father, Lance, and Lisa Poole and brother Kade of Fayetteville, and grandparents Kay Poole of Fayetteville and Glenn and Shirley Murphy of Walnut Ridge.