Pacelli head coach Hart Mizell’s advice to shortstop Avery Ross about recruiting was straightforward: Find the school that is the best fit. Ross had a chance to look around when deciding on his college, but in the end, LaGrange College proved to be the perfect match.
Ross signed with LaGrange College on Friday in a ceremony at Pacelli. With parents Lisa and Keith Lavallee by his side and a room full of former coaches, teammates and classmates around him, Ross made his plans to become a Panther official.
“It’s been a very emotional day,” Ross said. “I’m extremely thankful for all the support I’ve gotten from my friends, family, coaches and the school. I’m just really excited to continue my baseball career at the college level.”
Ross wasn’t the only one dealing with emotions on the big day. Lisa said she had contained herself until they picked up a cake decorated for the signing, which made it sink in that Ross was getting ready to take the next step.
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As Ross signed the paperwork and posed for pictures, Lisa fought back tears and expressed her excitement.
“We’re just proud of Avery,” Lisa said. “He did this, and this is all his accomplishments. He’s a hard worker.”
Ross explained what convinced him LaGrange College was where he needed to go. He spoke of the success on the field for the team, which is 19-2 so far this season. He also pointed out the school’s strong academics. Those factors coupled with the short distance from home made the signing day nothing but an afterthought.
LaGrange’s latest addition is a player Mizell has watched developed a great deal in his time at the helm of the Vikings.
“Avery’s a great kid,” Mizell said. “Just in terms of being a ballplayer, I think everybody knows Avery can play ball. He was a good player before I ever got here, but from what I’ve seen over the last couple of years is his transition from being a leader on the field by action more into a vocal leader. That’s something I want to commend him and his family on.”
Mizell emphasized Ross’ ability to play several positions. Although he is primarily a shortstop for Pacelli, Mizell said he can play anywhere in the infield as well as the outfield. That can benefit him greatly once he starts vying for playing time at LaGrange since he will not be restricted to one spot.
Mizell commented that Ross’ signing drew the biggest turnout he’s seen during his time with the school. The large crowd was not something Ross overlooked when taking in all aspects of the ceremony.
“It means a lot to me,” Ross said. “I wouldn’t be where I was today without my friends and family. My parents have been great and have always supported me through everything in my life. I’m extremely thankful for that.”
Ross’ signing comes in the midst of his senior year at Pacelli. So far, he has posted a .428 batting average with three ruome runs and 11 RBIs.
Ross said his goal in what’s left of the season is to finish strong and help Pacelli pile up some victories along the way. While he has plenty of games left as a Viking, Friday allowed Ross and everyone in attendance to get a quick glimpse of what his future holds in store.
“It’s a day full of happiness and excitement,” Ross said.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports