In the chart topping, hit single “Diamonds” by Barbadian singer and songwriter Rihanna, one can hear a powerful reoccurring statement “shine bright like a diamond”. While many get caught up in the beauty of this precious stone, they often forget diamonds are made under pressure. It took time and hard work for such objects to be created.
Shining bright like a diamond is easy to say in theory but most lack the patience to deal with the pressure it takes to be successful, wanting to have the glamorous lifestyle without the journey of unpleasant destinations. Consider this idea called life like a diamond on the baseball field. 90 feet sits in between home plate and first base.
The ultimate goal is to tag all three bases to earn a run. However, to get there, one must travel the distance. Whether it calls for remaining on a consistent walk in what’s comfortable or changing the pace to something new, the journey must be done to reach the goal.
For Anthony Alford, he started his journey from home base at a young age. However, before he was able to earn home runs and base hits for the Dunedin Blue Jays, a Class A-Advanced affiliate minor league team of the Toronto Blue Jays, he took an alternate route that consisted of a few changes in pace before finding his way to shining bright like a diamond.
A native of Columbia, Mississippi, Alford talks about growing up in small town Mississippi, his start to sports, his love for football and his path and goal to one day play play under the shining lights for a major league baseball team.
1. What are two of your most exciting moments in your entire life, either for your life in general or your sports career? Why were these moments so special for you?
Alford: I would have to say getting married and getting drafted to the MLB. It was a pretty big deal for me because no one in my family even played a sport over the level of high school. It was pretty exciting for me to get the opportunity to play at the highest level.
2. At what age, did you start playing sports? What made you start playing?
Alford: I started playing baseball when I was six. My older brother, Jasper Brown influenced me to play sports. While I was young, I always wanted to be outside. As a child, I played football, basketball, baseball, tennis and soccer.
3. Who was instrumental in you playing sports at a young age? Parents, siblings, etc? Did your parents play sports? If you have siblings, how many do you have? How was growing up with your siblings?
Alford: My parents were instrumental in me playing sports at a young age. My mom was my first coach in baseball and my dad coached me in football. My mom was harder on me in sports than my dad was. My mom was always the one pushing me to do better.
I have two siblings. I have an older brother, Jasper Brown, who is 24. I also have a younger sister Ayanna Alford, who is 15.
4. Which sport was your first love? Baseball or football or another sport? I know you are playing baseball right now. Did you ever think baseball would be the sport you would be playing right now? If not, where did you once predict or project yourself to be?
Alford: The first sports I played were baseball and soccer but I fell in love with football. I knew this was what I wanted to do. Growing in South Mississippi, football was most popular. It is nothing like atmosphere of high school football under the Friday night lights.
In basketball, I wasn’t tall enough. I always wanted to play football and baseball. However, I decided I would have a longer career in baseball.
5. What was your biggest dream as a kid growing up?
Alford: My dreams were to play professional baseball or football and buy my mother a house.
6. Did you face any obstacles growing up or things that made you want to give up on your dreams?
Alford: Yes, I did. I lacked the financial support that other players had. I grew up poor, but it kept me motivated. It provided me with so many memories that I do not want to go back to.
7. How much did your parents stay on you to be well-rounded in regard to being an athlete and a student in the classroom?
Alford: My mom was very hard on me in the classroom. I remember once during my junior year, she pulled me out of class because I failed a test on a Wednesday before a Friday game. She told me I wasn’t playing and I was very upset. Thus, academics always came first.
8. What middle school did you go to? Did you play sports there? If so, which sports did you play? What did your coaches stress to you in middle school? Did they have a strong impact in giving you a foundation for being an athlete today? If so, why?
Alford: I attended East Marion, a small 2A school in south Mississippi. There, I played shortstop in baseball, quarterback and defensive back in football and a little of everything in basketball. A lot of the guys I played with on this team, I knew from playing with them when we were younger. It was a really small town where we all knew each other.
My middle school coaches stressed to me to be physically and mentally tough. You have to work to get what you want.
9. You attended Petal High School. You had a stellar career, leading the Panthers to a 6A state football championship in 2011, throwing for 2,058 yards and 20 touchdowns, running for 1,731 yards and 24 touchdowns in your senior year, playing in the Mississippi/Alabama All Star game, Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and senior as the first in the state to ever do so, Mr. Football, named Mr. Baseball by the Clarion Ledger including many more, what was this experience like for you? How was the transition coming from middle school to high school and seeing how you set the standard for Mississippi athletes?
Alford: Attending Petal was a huge transition for me. I did not have any friends at Petal. It was totally different. It was a new environment where I had to meet new friends in a weird classroom. It was a crazy experience.
Receiving the accolades and awards were good experiences. However, I stayed humble. It took a complete team accomplishment. They were not given to me for my own efforts. I wanted more. Sometimes, people can let success be a distraction. When you get awards and recognition, you have to be hungrier for more success by putting in the work to do so.
10. At Petal, Baseball America ranked you as the No. 56 overall prospect in the nation entering the 2012 draft. As previously mentioned, Clarion Ledger named you Mr. Baseball, what did this honor mean to you?
Alford: The thought of being drafted was exciting. I knew I would be playing against the best. However, I knew I was just another athlete and I would be starting over from the bottom of the barrel. Thus, I knew I would have to work my way up to eventually play with the best.
11. Southern Miss recruited you to play football at the quarterback position. You never got the opportunity you wanted in regard to playing on the field. You played in nine games, started five. What was the hardest thing about this experience? You also suffered some knee injuries during this process. How did this challenge you mentally and physically? Did this ever make you want to give up playing football or sports in general?
Alford: No, it never made me want to give up. I was disappointed that we weren’t winning. After the season, I needed a new start. I needed a fresh start.
12. You played under then head coach Ellis Johnson and your former high school coach, Steve Berkley, who was on Johnson’s coaching staff. How did he along with other coaches play a role in your life on and off the field during your time at Southern Miss?
Alford: Steve Berkley, who coached at Southern Miss when I was there, and former USM alum and NFL wide receiver Todd Pinkston as my receivers coach impacted my time as an athlete. They motivated me. They kept me grounded. They are a big reason as to why I am where I am today.
13. When you originally went to Southern Miss, what was your initial thoughts and dreams?
Alford: My initial thoughts were to take the program to another level, better it and get other people nationally to give USM a look. Playing for Southern Miss meant a lot. It was home. My mom could come see me play. I was close to USM head baseball coach, Scott Berry. My high school coach, Steve Berkley, got an offer to be the offensive coordinator at Southern Miss as I was coming so it was time where I felt I could truly represent for Southern Miss in a positive way.
14. You transferred to Ole Miss in January of 2013 but you had to sit out a year due to NCAA obligations? At the time, did you look at this opportunity as starting over in your career? Was this a fresh start for you?
Alford: Ole Miss was a fresh start for me. I had to redshirt due to NCAA obligations.
15. You began to see you didn’t get the playing time you wanted at Ole Miss. You decided to play baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays, the major league baseball team that drafted you in 2012. You recorded six tackles in four games for Ole Miss. How did leaving football affect you? Before the Blue Jays’ organization offered you a deal at the time, were you ever having any thoughts that football was not for you?
Alford: I was playing on defense where I was rotating, getting playing time in a sense. However, after a while , I lost the love for the game of football. I grew love for baseball. I knew that I wanted to provide for my family, leading me to commit to baseball full time.
— PineBeltSPORTS (@PineBeltSports) June 17, 2015
16. You played for the Lansing Lugnuts, a Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. How was this experience for you? Who played a big part of your transition from football to this team and your success?
Alford: Manager Ken Huckaby played a big part in my transition from baseball to football. As a team, we had a lot of success. We received an automatic bid to the playoffs. I played in an All-Star game, playing with the top talent in the league. My team was not selfish and we succeeded overall.
— Jays Prospects (@JaysProspects) June 23, 2015
17. What was your favorite and most exciting moment with the team?
Alford: My favorite moments were clinching the playoffs and celebrating with a big party in the locker room. Those were some real good times.
— Lansing Lugnuts (@LansingLugnuts) June 26, 2015
18. You recently moved up to to the DunedIn Blue Jays, the Advanced A affiliate of the Blue Jays. How much did this mean to you and where you would like to be as an athlete in the future?
Alford: Things are going good. I am having a lot of success on the field. I am learning a lot and living up to my expectations.
19. Where do you see yourself in the next two years? Is it your goal to play major-league baseball?
Alford: It is my goal to play in the Big Leagues in the next two years. I hope it doesn’t take longer than two years.
Full Name: Anthony Joseph Alford, Jr.
Hometown: Columbia, Mississippi
College(s): The University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi
Team: The DunedIn Blue Jays
Life Motto: Don’t’ take anything for granted. Everything you accomplished, give all the glory to God. Live up to your highest potential.
Describe yourself in one sentence: I am quiet, laid back person.
Relationship: Married to Bailey Alford
Favorite Childhood Baseball Team: New York Yankees
Favorite Childhood Football Team: St. Louis Rams
Favorite Player: Derek Jeter
Parents: Lawanda Alford and Anthony Alford, Sr.