CLEVELAND– Spencer Adams’ second-round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft demonstrates baseball’s ability to discover talent just about anywhere.
Even in a house just east of Cleveland, tucked in the woods at the end of a dirt road.
Within distance is the trademark rocky face of Yonah Mountain, a natural landmark of White County. Down the road is the famous Yonah Burger, a well-known local dining establishment his grandfather founded in 1968.
His family has lived in the area for generations, long before Adams was born.
“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Adams said at his draft party Thursday night. “I’ve had to take so many questionnaires asking if I would rather live on the city or on the coast. I’d rather live here in the country with all these people — they’re great.”
What the 6-foot-5, 190-pound White County graduate does have, however, is a cannon of a right arm.
In a couple of years, his surroundings may turn from the familiar Blue Ridge Mountains of Cleveland to the Windy City. The Chicago White Sox selected Adams with 44th overall pick in Thursday’s MLB Draft.
“It was very surprising — I haven’t talked much to them at all,” Adams said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I thank the Lord it happened.”
A packed house of roughly 200 friends, family and teammates waited four hours for Adams’ name to be called.
He was passed on several picks he thought were sure to be his, most notably on three occasions by the Kansas City Royals, who had extensive contact with Adams in the weeks leading up to the draft.
“I worked out with them, I flew out there and met with everybody,” Adams said. “They said they liked me a lot, but evidently it wasn’t meant to happen. This is what was meant to happen.”
It was meant to happen for quite a long time, regardless of who picked him. Growing up on White County land passed down within his family tree, he comes from a kinship of athletes in various sports.
“Just about all the Adams family boys have been involved in some sport at some time,” said his uncle, Bobby Adams, who coached the Lumpkin County baseball team from 1970-1978. “Spencer has always been hard-nosed. He has always loved sports.
“He loved golf. When he was nine years old, he could hit a golf ball probably harder than a lot of guys in their teams.
He just had that natural ability to do that. Then he got playing baseball.”
At the high school level, Adams excelled in baseball and basketball, but transcended to an elite level on the pitcher’s mound.
As a senior, he recorded a 0.72 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. He limited opponents to a .129 average.
“From a freshman coming and starting from the beginning, he was electric,” said White County teammate McClain Ramey, who caught for Adams for three years. “I thought as a junior he had topped out, but I came back and watched him after I graduated and he was unbelievable.”
Ramey was also behind the plate for former Warrior pitchers David Sosebee and Luke Crumley. Both ended up at Georgia, where Adams was committed to play.
But there was just something different about Adams’ delivery.
“He has a professional changeup already,” Ramey said. “His changeup was probably the best around. The best I’ve ever caught. Especially to lefties — he can throw that changeup and just fool anybody.”
His mother, Joanne Adams, knew it was going to take more than just the local recreation department to find talent that matched her son’s.
She ventured with him throughout the U.S. as he competed in showcases and tournaments with his travel team, Team Elite, based out of Winder.
Together, they’ve been down to Florida on several occasions, and as far north as Minnesota.
“I think at an early age, you decide what you want to do later on in life,” Joanne Adams said. “His was, ‘Do I want to punch a clock every day, or do I want to do what I enjoy.’ That’s what he’s always wanted to do.”
He’s never looked back. She’s never let him.
“It is a dream come true because ever since he was a little kid, he always wanted to play major league ball,” Joanne Adams said. “Now he’s getting his chance to do it.
“We thought he was going to Georgia. He still can, but if his dream is to go pro, then he should go for it, by far.”
Spencer’s life changed completely Thursday. But today is just another routine schedule for the recent White County grad.
He’ll be back at the Warriors baseball field, doing some simple conditioning while he awaits his report date with the White Sox. They didn’t disclose those details when the team called him Thursday night shortly after his selection.
“I don’t know many people up there,” Adams said. “It’s a great organization up there in Chicago. I’m thankful to have the opportunity. They picked me to play for them, so I’m thankful.”
Watching his every move is a small, albeit supportive community in the Blue Ridge Mountains, who know exactly where that dirt road is, and what dreams began at the end of it.
Adams is sure to remember it as well.
“I don’t know if I’ve really had to remind him of anything,” Joanne Adams said. “He’s stayed so focused with his ball. He will tell you that God has given him a talent. And at an early age, he knew that.”
Added Adams: “Growing up here taught me a lot — to stay humble. People around here don’t have much, but we have each other.”