RINGGOLD, Ga. - Slade Dale admits to growing up a Florida fan, but that didn't keep the Ringgold High School two-sport star from committing to play for the University of Georgia.
The senior shortstop committed to new Bulldogs baseball coach Scott Stricklin on Sunday night after taking an unofficial visit to the Athens, Ga., campus. He is set to be the first Ringgold player to sign with the Georgia baseball program since Josh Gandy in the mid-1990s and the first northwest Georgia prep player to do since Calhoun's Matt Robbins in 2004.
"Georgia is getting a heck of a baseball player," Ringgold coach Brent Tucker said of Dale, who hit .405 with seven homers, 33 RBIs, 18 doubles and 14 stolen bases as a junior. "There are times Slade makes the game look so easy because he's so athletic and he just loves the game. He's played a lot of baseball this summer, and they've watched him a few times."
Dale played for Gary Baldwin and the vaunted East Cobb Astros this summer. That's when he first made contact with UGA coaches.
"They saw me play in a tournament in Cincinnati and were interested right away," Dale said. "I visited this weekend and just loved it. The campus is beautiful and Coach Stricklin is going to turn that program around. I really think that in my time there we'll get to Omaha (for the College World Series)."
Dale likely will play second base in Athens, a position he played almost exclusively this summer. The switch will be a good one for him, he said.
"I like second base -- it's an easier throw to first," Dale said. "They were telling me their second baseman will be a senior in my freshman year and the position would be mine after that, so it's exciting."
Dale, the starting quarterback for the Tigers, is glad to be able to commit before football season starts, and he said UGA coaches gave his participation their blessing.
"That meant a lot to me because some schools don't want you to play football," he said. "There was no way I was going somewhere that wouldn't allow me to play. I can now get ready for football. This has been a good week for me. ... Dreams do come true."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.