By Matt Goisman
CROWDER — Throughout his childhood, Hartshorne senior Brett Akins was the classic three-sport athlete. He’d play football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
But while Hartshorne adores its football team and its basketball team has improved each of the last two seasons, baseball has always been Akins’ first love.
Akins said Saturday that he started playing baseball as a 5- or 6-year old. He played T-ball, then moved up to coach-pitch.
He played in a local Hartshorne league, and he played for travel teams like the McAlester Rangers and McAlester Sooners.
“When I was 7, every at-bat I’d just hit it and run,” Akins said. “I never knew really knew baseball rules or anything. I’d always ask my mom and dad if we’d won the game.”
Basketball started in the fourth grade for Akins, then football began in the sixth. He continued with all three sports through junior high and high school, playing wide receiver and defensive back in football and guard and basketball.
Pitching and playing shortstop, Akins made the varsity baseball team as a freshman. He’s been a varsity Miner ever since.
“Down there at Regionals against Stigler last year, (I) had a walk-off to beat a team,” Akins said. “They beat us three times earlier in the regular season, and I had a walk-off double.”
The Miners didn’t make the state tournament in 2013, but Akins’ baseball season continued past May. He made the Oklahoma Blue team for the Jr. Sunbelt Classic in June, then held his own against some of the best baseball prospects in the country.
Akins’ best game may have been a June 8 game against defending-champion Tennessee. Oklahoma Blue lost, but Akins batted 2-for-3.
He also drove in a run with a perfect bunt down the third base line that gave his team a brief lead.
“It was a great moment,” Akins said of that play.
The Sunbelt might have been a highlight of Akins’ baseball career, but it might also have meant the end of his football career. With so many college scouts at the Sunbelt, Akins said he realized that he had a much better chance at a college scholarship in baseball.
To further improve his chances at a baseball scholarship, Akins dropped football and played for the Mid-South Prospects baseball team this past fall.
“Watching those guys, I went to all their games,” Akins said of the football team. “I did miss it, but I think it really helped me, playing for the fall (baseball) team.”
So far, Akins said, he’s drawn interest from both Carl Albert State College in Poteau and Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton. He said he’d go to whichever school “gives me the best opportunity.”
Those fall baseball games seem to be paying off for Akins this spring. Through his first 12 games, including a 9-1 win against then-unbeaten Eufaula on Saturday, Akins is batting .548 with nine doubles, 17 runs scored and 17 runs batted in.
As a pitcher, Akins has gone 4-2, striking out 51 batters in 33 total innings and posting a 1.06 earned run average.
“The kid’s special,” Hartshorne coach Justin James said of Akins. “I’ve had a lot of good players that have spent a lot of time at the game, and none of them have spent as much as him. He lives it and breathes it. ... He’ll go home, probably, tonight and take more cuts. That’s just who he is and how he goes about his game. Energy, he plays with such great energy. The kids all look up to him because he’s very likable and respectable.”
Akins said he’s hoping this year’s team can reach the state tournament. Though his favorite aspect of baseball is hitting, pitching and playing shortstop also have their appealing elements.
“I feel like I’m in control, having seniority over popups and stuff,” Akins said of playing shortstop. “I feel like if I’m in control, I have a good chance of being a leader out there.”
That desire for leadership and control could probably also be said of pitching.
When he’s not playing baseball or training for it, Akins is watching it. He said his favorite team is the Texas Rangers, and his favorite player is second baseman Ian Kinsler.
“He seems like he’s a tough out,” Akins said of Kinsler.
“Always confident-looking, and he’s savvy.”
Akins said he also enjoys golf, but rarely has time for it because of how much work he puts into baseball.
Wherever Akins winds up, he said he wants to be a physical therapist.
Whether his baseball career ends in a month or in a couple of years from now, Akins always wants to be part of competitive athletics.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.