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Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — Athens senior Joey VanAllen loved the atmosphere, and the scenery on his visits to Cornerstone University, located in Grand Rapids, Mich. On Wednesday, during a brief ceremony in the high school gym, VanAllen signed a National Letter-of-Intent to play baseball for the NAIA program.

“I took a couple visits (to Cornerstone), and all the people I interacted with — all the professors, all the students, all the coaches — were so friendly,” he said. “It was very up-lifting, and it just led me to my decision to attend Cornerstone.”

While many of his peers are looking to stay close to home, VanAllen has no problem with being 8 1/2 hours away from home.

“It’s a haul, but I love being near lakes, and the campus is right on a lake, and there are a ton of lakes in the area.

“It will be a cool experience … and with me being a photographer, it opens up a lot of new avenues for me to take my talent somewhere else,” VanAllen said.

VanAllen, who was a utility player for the Wildcats, will be playing in the middle infield at Cornerstone. He knows he has some work to do.

“I need to work on smoother transitions, and different techniques I can us in the infield,” said VanAllen. “I haven’t played there a lot, so it’s going to be different.”

Athens baseball coach Charlie Havens said VanAllen just needs to find a defensive position.

“I think he needs to work on his defense, so he can find a position on the field. We moved him all over the field to try and find a position he’s comfortable with.

“He has a really good bat, he just needs to improve a little bit defensively,” Havens said.

Havens is confident VanAllen will succeed at the next level.

“Joey has a great work ethic,” said Havens. “He came in and really impressed me with how much work he put in. He always wanted extra at-bats.

“Even in the postseason when he wasn’t eligible, I had to tell him to back off, so we could get ready,” laughed Havens.

“He really helped us out a lot this year. He made some big contributions,” Havens added. “He’s a really good kid, and a great teammate.”

VanAllen will major in Exercise Science with the goal of being a personal trainer.


IN PHOTO 1: Athens senior Joey VanAllen. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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