Wales Toney’s and Andrew Cox’s paths to Clemson couldn’t have been any more different.
Toney, a right-handed pitcher from T.L. Hanna, took the shortest route from Point A to Point B. In this case, it was Route 28.
On the other hand, Cox, an outfielder from Belton-Honea Path, routed himself through Columbia and back to Tigertown.
Both signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday within less than two hours of each other, creating some semblance of a homegrown feel to coach Jack Leggett’s class of 2012 during the early signing period.
“It’s really a dream come true,” Toney said.
He was signed, sealed and delivered the second scouts clocked his fastball at 88 mph during a showcase last year. South Carolina expressed early interest, but as soon as an offer from Clemson came in, Toney appeared to make a snap judgment to those who didn’t know his back story of attending games at Doug Kingsmore Stadium at an early age.
“He had the sense at any early age to know where he wanted to be and put the pieces together and followed the steps that were laid out for him in order to get to his goal,” Hanna coach Adam Comstock said of Toney, a second team all-Independent Mail selection after going 4-2 with 71 strikeouts in 47 innings his junior season.
Toney has hit as high as 93 mph on the radar gun and isn’t shy about revealing his identity as a power pitcher.
“I’ll go right at you. I won’t back down,” Toney said. “I’ll throw my fastball, my change-up, get you out with my curveball.”
And he doesn’t plan changing for even the best hitters in the country.
During the summer of 2010, Cox felt like he needed a change.
After drawing plenty of attention by leading the Bears to a Class 3A state championship his freshmen season, Cox became one of the youngest players to commit to an in-state program when he gave a verbal to USC.
B-HP coach Steve Williams said Cox’s early pledge didn’t have the slightest effect on his motivation and drive to improve each day.
“When he gets up in the morning, I think he’s thinking and dreaming of baseball,” Williams said. “He has a great desire to work hard and strive to be the best he can.”
Hitting in the No. 2 spot in B-HP’s order, he batted .440 with 32 runs and 18 RBI in 2010. At that point, Cox realized he made a rash decision and decomitted from the Gamecocks.
With his brother making the Clemson team as a walk-on after transferring from Florence-Darlington Tech and his father having kicked for the Tigers’ football team for two years, there was no question he wanted to continue the family tradition.
Switching sides in this rivarly has repercussions he knows will be apparent when he takes his first at-bat at Carolina Stadium.
“I actually look forward to that,” said Cox, who hit .319 and scored 24 runs as an all-Independent Mail selection his junior season. “That’s what the rivalry is about. It’s having people down somebody else. It would make my day to come up there in a situation where my team needs me with runners at second and third in the top of the ninth to put us up by two at Carolina Stadium. There wouldn’t be more left in my life left to do than that.”