"His potential is off the charts"

Barbers Hill (TX) ace Ross Hales was projected to be drafted in the top-10 rounds. But with a solid commitment to Texas A&M, the price tag was too high for any team to bite. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp visits with Barbers Hill coach Gil Stalbaum about Hales' career and what he'll mean to the Aggies.

In 2005, Barbers Hill High School's varsity baseball team was getting beat by Lufkin Hudson in a state playoff game. Head coach Gil Stalbaum decided to get a skinny little freshman named Ross Hales some playing experience—not expecting a whole lot from a kid who hadn't started shaving yet.

Boy was he wrong.

"It was near the end of the game and we were getting beat so I needed to make some moves and I decided to let him pitch an inning," Stalbaum said. "He struck out the side in a varsity playoff game as a freshman. From that point on he has been our ace."

Now the skinny little freshman is nearly 6-foot-5, 190 pounds and his velocity has increased from around 83 mph as a freshman to 92 mph this season.

"He's really developed and picked up velocity as the years went on. He came in as a freshman just a little bitty skinny guy," Stalbaum said. "This year he topped out at 92 and he spent most ball games at 88-89. He's hit 90-91 in the seventh inning so he's capable of getting it up there."

That need for more strength is the No. 1 reason why Stalbaum believes that going to college will benefit Hales—who was projected to be drafted in the first 10 rounds—more than going straight into the professional ranks.

"They're going to work their butts off in the weight room (at A&M)," Stalbaum said. "There's no telling where his velocity could end up by the time he leaves A&M. If you could strengthen him up he could be a major league pitcher. His potential is off the charts."

Hales posted a career record of 27-10 (mostly over the last three seasons) with an ERA of 1.32, striking out 346 batters in 202 innings of work. He pitched 25 complete games and posted 12 career shutouts, including a no-hitter against Bay City earlier this season.

Entering his senior season he was named one of the top 16 players in the Houston area and he proved his worth this season, striking out 114 hitters in 64.1 innings of work with eight shutouts. Opponents hit just .153 against him on the season.

But he does more than just pitch.

Considered one of the top two-way players in the state, Hales hit .427 with 27 RBI and seven home runs this season, and Stalbaum says that he may be the best defensive first baseman in school history.

Stalbaum also said that Hales may be more impressive off the field than he is on it.

"He's a great kid from a great family," Stalbaum said. "He's not the kind of kid that's going to get in trouble. He's the kind of kid that you'd like to date your daughter."

Hales told The Baytown Sun that once he experienced the atmosphere at Olsen Field during a junior day event against Baylor, he knew that he made the right decision.

"It was one of the most exciting games that I have ever been to," Hales said. "It was more exciting than an Astros game. The fans were crazy."

But more important than his Olsen Field experience is his belief that the Aggies are primed to make a run to the College World Series.

"I liked the campus and the coaching staff," he told The Sun. "They are in the Big 12 and have an up-and-coming program. I think they can win the College World Series in the next couple of years."

Another lefty on the mound sure can't hurt the Aggies' chances.

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