By inking his letter of intent to play baseball for the University of South Alabama, Navarre shortstop Michael Sandle fulfilled a promise that had existed for more than half a decade.
Sure, it was a light-hearted and halfway serious idea at the time — but Sandle recalled his days as a 10-year old playing for the Gulf Coast Lightning — when the “deal” was made — just moments after signing a Division I letter of intent.
“There’s some kids going to South Alabama (baseball) that I played with when I was younger, and always wanted a chance to play with again,” Sandle said. “We were all on a travel team together one summer. When we left I told them: ‘Hopefully we will be able to play again one day.’ And they were like: ‘Yeah I think we will.'”
“At the same time, we were about 10-years old and just like whatever. But now it actually happened and it’s crazy.”
Sandle said he will be joined by Andrew Cash (Flomaton High) — another member of South Alabama’s 2016 signing class and added that JoJo Booker (T.R. Miller) is expected to play for South Alabama the following season — ultimately finalizing the deal between the former travel ball teammates.
A three-sport athlete at Navarre, Sandle’s skill on the diamond is only matched by his three-phase presence on the gridiron and his state-final qualifying weightlifting power.
But baseball was just the right choice.
“I sat down with my parents and really honed in on things,” Sandle said. “We decided that I should focus on one sport. I’m gonna stick with baseball, get better at it and last longer in it.”
And though Sandle is excited to reunite with an old teammate and his future South Alabama teammates in the fall, he certainly knows that he’s leaving behind something special.
“The majority of my teammates — both baseball and football — we’ve played all sports together since we were four,” Sandle said. “So when we play, it’s just another year for us and we are always trying to get better.
“(Navarre High) is just awesome. All of the coaches are on the same page: drive, drive, drive. They want to win championships. All the kids (at Navarre) stick to the plan, and when it works for everyone, it’s fun.”
Fun is a word frequently associated with Sandle, according to Navarre baseball head coach and athletic director Scott Murphy.
“He (Sandle) is a great young man — he’s a happy-go-lucky guy who is always smiling,” Murphy said. “He works so hard, but has some fun too. We (coaches and teammates) like to kid with him a lot, and he knows we are joking around. But we gotta be ready, because when he says something back we’ve got to take it also.”
But when first pitch, kick-off, or first lift comes around Sandle is as fierce of a competitor as any.
“(Sandle’s signing day) is a tribute to his ability and his desire to always get better,” Murphy said. ” I remember days where he would finish football practice, then come work on hitting and ground balls for baseball and then go and workout afterwards. He could be one of the first people to be a part of three district teams in one season at Navarre. I think you’ll be reading about him (Sandle) in the future. He’s gonna work very hard at it both athletically and academically.”
This season, Sandle is second for Navarre with hits and currently holds a .269 batting average, has plated eight runs and scored 13 of his own.
Also included in the signing day festivities in Navarre’s cafeteria was Jordyn York and Dee Elder of the Raiders girls basketball team.
York signed with Mobile College while Elder will stay in the area and signed with Pensacola State.