Al­ford finds one sport is enough

National Post (Latest Edition) - - SPORTS - Ken Fidlin

• An­thony Alf ord may have given up foot­ball, but not the foot­ball men­tal­ity.

In the fall of 2014, Al­ford made his de­ci­sion be­tween foot­ball and base­ball, turn­ing his back on Ole Miss, where he was a quar­ter­back, de­cid­ing to de­vote his ath­letic at­ten­tion to base­ball.

The Jays’ t hird- round draft pick in 2012 had dab­bled at base­ball in his first two years but in 2015, he at­tacked the game and the chal­lenge of learn­ing how to play cen­tre field with a foot­ball in­ten­sity.

He de­stroyed two lev­els of pitch­ing, di­vid­ing his time be­tween low Class A Lans­ing and high Class A Dunedin al­most equally. At Lans­ing, he played 50 games and had an .812 OPS. In 57 games at Dunedin, he out­did him­self with an .825 OPS. Com­bined, he had 36 ex­tra- base hits, in­clud­ing four homers, in 107 games, stole 27 bases and had 67 walks.

At 6- foot-1, 205 pounds, he is pow­er­fully built and will un­doubt­edly ma­ture into a big- time masher.

“I s aw him in s pring t rain­ing l ast year,” said man­ager John Gib­bons. “Our guys say he’s made more strides in one sea­son than any­body they’ve ever seen.

“He’s got a ton of tal­ent and once they started t hrow­ing him out t here ev­ery day, it started hap­pen­ing. He was f eel­ing his way around here last spring. Base­ball is a tough game to play. but he’s started mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion. He’s viewed as our top prospect and I can see why.”

Al­ford may s t ar t t he sea­son at ei­ther Class A Dunedin or Class AA New Hamp­shire. It is not a ridicu­lous thought that he could be back at spring train­ing in 2017 com­pet­ing for a ma­jor- league ros­ter spot.

Al­ford cred­its the de­ci­sion to leave foot­ball be­hind as a key to his spike in base­ball suc­cess.

“I ’ m more re­laxed be­cause I just have to fo­cus on one thing as op­posed to fo­cus­ing on foot­ball and base­ball at the same time,” he said. “I get to r eally just work on my craft and strengthen the things that are seen as my weak­nesses. It’s a l ot eas­ier when you’re j ust play­ing one sport.

“Ev­ery­thing I’m l earn­ing is not so much phys­i­cal or me­chan­i­cal. It’s mostly men­tal. It’s im­por­tant to pick the older guys’ brains and find out how they pre­pare for work­outs. Ev­ery small thing that you can pick up can make a dif­fer­ence.”


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