Instead of competing as expected for a state championship, Trinity Christian Academy (Fla.) found itself failing to even break .500 this year.
But that wasn’t the fault of South Carolina football signee Ahmad Christian, a standout second baseman who also plans to play baseball for the Gamecocks. Rarely getting pitches to hit and opportunities to show off his skills, Christian still starred on a team that finished 12-13.
“That was not Ahmad’s fault,” said TCA baseball coach Mark Gattis, whose season ended in the district playoffs Monday. “He did everything that he could. The guys around him didn’t help him out a lot. I came away more impressed with him than I was last season.
“Ahmad had a very good senior season. As you can imagine, he wasn’t pitched to. He hit .350 and had to earn every bit of that. He had an amazing number of walks, because even as a leadoff hitter, people would pitch around him. Consequently, he was on base all the time and scored a ton of runs.”
Playing in front of a handful of Major League Baseball scouts every game, Christian played shortstop and a little second base this season. He could have a future in center field, but Gattis said he was more valuable as a middle infielder for TCA.
Christian was hit Tuesday with a wide range of emotions.
“It was hard, but I’m moving on to another chapter in life that I’m looking forward to,” he said. “It great looking back at all the fun we’ve had.
“I played well. A lot of teams didn’t pitch to me, so the walks definitely went up. There was nothing I could do about it, so I just took it as respect. I had a lot of fun in my last year of high school.”
Christian wasn’t able to put up huge numbers this season, but Gattis believes he’ll leave a huge impression on his program. As the most dedicated player on the roster, he led by example and pushed his teammates to push themselves.
“The thing I wanted to show the other kids was that, yes, he’s talented, but he’s also going to outwork you at practice,” Gattis said. “He’s going to outwork you during the game. He doesn’t take a pitch off. When I’ve had great teams, it’s because the best player works the hardest. That’s what Ahmad does.
“If he never plays another baseball or football game again, I know that kid has a career in coaching. It’s a lot of fun watching that kid play baseball, because he just does a lot of things right. He sees the game innately. A lesser baseball player doesn’t see them happen.”
Those instincts will certainly aide his draft stock ahead of June’s MLB Draft. Rated as a prospect who could potentially come off the board in the top-10 rounds, Christian may never make it to Columbia. However, Gattis believes he’ll end up playing both sports for the Gamecocks.
“There were three or four [scouts] at every ball game,” the coach said. “I don’t know if his draft status got better or worse during the year. He loves South Carolina. He talks about it all the time and wears all the colors.”
And he’s planning to end up in Columbia.
“I’m not really focused on [the draft],” said Christian, who plans to enroll at USC this summer. “I’m focused on going to college right now. If that pops up, I’ll worry about it then.”