ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen senior Kyle Tatum always has a plan. Whether it’s preparing for an upcoming exam, an upcoming football game, an upcoming at-bat on the baseball diamond or for his future — the plan is in place.
On Wednesday, the Eagles’ two-sport star took the next step in his plan by signing to play collegiate baseball for Brunswick Community College in Supply.
The decision comes after a long list of four-year schools accepted his application — including N.C. State University, Mount Olive, East Carolina, UNC-Wilmington and Campbell University. But don’t think one of those schools might not still be in his plans.
“I liked the coaching staff at BCC and the area is really nice,” Tatum said. “And I really wanted to play baseball — and their baseball program has a lot of class and really nice facilities.”
Tatum said after his two years playing for the Dolphins, a transfer to one of the four-year schools will be his next step. And the fact that all of BCC’s academic programs are transferable played a big part, as well. Tatum, a top-10 student at East Bladen, expects to major in either business or engineering.
Eagles baseball coach Russell Priest couldn’t be happier for his star catcher.
“He’s been our backbone — a real leader for us,” Priest said. “I don’t think Brunswick knows just how good a player and young man they are getting.”
But BCC baseball coach Robbie Allen, a Tabor City High grad who played in the Dodgers’ organization between 1980-85 as an infielder, seems to know exactly what he’s getting.
“We’re excited,” he said. “He has all the leadership skills that we’re looking forward to; he’s versatile, athletic.
“We want him to feel comfortable about what position he plays, so he’ll help us make that decision,” Allen added. “We only have him for two years, so I tell my sophomores that we don’t recruit to back up, we recruit to replace.”
Tatum said he thinks he’ll be catching and playing the outfield for the Dolphins.
“But wherever they want me to play, whatever they need me to do … I’ll do it,” he added.
During his senior season, Tatum led the team with 45 hits — including eight doubles, two triples and a home run — and had a team-best .625 batting average and 34 RBI for a team that went 15-7 overall and 11-3 in the Four County Conference. He also scored 33 runs hitting out of the No. 3 hole in the lineup.
“The coaches here really helped me a lot to progress and get better,” Tatum said. “I really appreciate everything they’ve done.”
That kind of attitude, along with a strong work ethic, is what puts Tatum head and shoulders above others — a point emphasized by East Bladen Principal Jason Wray.
“What Kyle possesses is what makes colleges come calling,” he said. “They can find a 1,000-yard rusher, home-run hitter, pitcher anywhere, believe me. But the hard work, commitment, leadership he shows — on the field, in the classroom and community — is rare and is the difference.”
Brunswick Community College just concluded a successful season, going 21-5 in the Carolinas Conference and 40-17 overall within Div. II of the National Junior College Athletic Association. The Dolphins put together a 22-game winning streak between March 18 and April 23.
Tatum, who is the son of Chris and Dana Tatum, was named East Bladen’s 2016-17 Male Athlete of the Year on Tuesday.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.