A storybook ending for a tale of baseball, heartache and perseverance
Champions and championships can come from the most unlikely of places- and the fans of Vidalia baseball were introduced to one of those places last season as they chased a Class-AA title.
It's time to introduce you to senior pitcher Kevin Cox- who, when we say, "he went through a lot"- it's a bit of an understatement. As Vidalia would eventually win that championship trophy, Kevin was someone who went through multiple injuries and came back, and came back, and came back...
For his story, we caught up with many of the folks who were there first-hand including: long time Vidalia play-by-play voice John Koon; Kevin and his mother, Kellie; head baseball coach Brent Korn; Athletic Director Tommy Dalley- and his son, Ty; teammate and friend Jordan Walden; and assistant coach Ben Beck.
They helped reconstruct the history of a champion and a championship.
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): Kevin is the kind of young man you want on your team and wish you had a whole team of. He’s a true competitor, but he also knows and accepts his role. He’s a high character guy, who cares as much or more about others than himself.
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): Kevin is a tender hearted kid. He probably doesn't want to hear that but he is. He's a kid who loves baseball. Hard worker, high character. Not arrogant, not about if he's the cool kid or best player on the field, just loves the game.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): Since the time Kevin was a little boy he always wanted to be in the yard playing some kind of sport. He would play baseball, soccer, basketball; it really didn't matter because he loved it all. He would want us watching him and would always say, "Cheer for me. Say my name." He wanted us cheering for him and loved to be the star of the game, even if it was in our yard. When he was about 7 or 8, his dad built him a baseball field to the side of where we lived. He had a backstop and bases and a pitching machine. He started getting serious about baseball then. He started playing recreational baseball and started on a local travel ball team called "The Tribe" when he was 7. From then until middle school he played travel ball. When Kevin was in the 6th grade he was tired from all the traveling so we took a break from travel ball for a year. He decided one more time to give travel ball another chance. He played in a USSSA Super NIT tournament in Myrtle Beach, SC when he was about 12. That is when he says he hurt his arm.
Kevin Cox: I gravitated towards baseball from the time I could really remember. I had always wanted to play baseball.
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): My first impression of Kevin came when I coached him in middle school. Even as a 13 year old, he showed poise in high intensity situations. He combined that with a good hearted nature that makes him someone you know you can depend on through thick and thin
Jordan Walden (Kevin's teammate): Mine and Kevin’s relationship go back way before school… we have grown up and played baseball our whole lives . Great kid and great friend of mine going way back!
Kevin's first injury as a high schooler came as a Sophomore- and it was with his pitching arm. The questions you face are tough in that situation. You want to play and compete with your friends and not let them down (in your own mind), but you also have to think about the present and the future all at once...
The choice wasn't an easy one...
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): As of his first injury we knew he would be back, but didn’t know exactly the time frame just knew that it was going to be a long journey .
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): Kevin and his family had two choices. #1 Rehab and probably play his junior year, but probably never pitch again. #2 Have surgery and rehab the arm and then have a chance to pitch and once again be at full strength. Kevin has always wanted to pitch, because he’s very good at it. I’ve said it before, if we would have had Kevin Cox last year, we may have had gone Back-to Back. So, he decided to have the surgery and did great during the rehab, pushing himself to the limits so he could be ready for the spring. The cool thing about his rehab was that he never missed a game while not playing. No matter how much pain he was in, he was always there, sitting in the dugout, visualizing the game and thinking about his return.
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): Kevin could of decided not to have surgery and still played second base and hit, But Kevin wanted to pitch. He wanted to pitch for his high school team and he wanted the chance to pitch in college. After that it was a no brainer.
Tommy Dalley (VHS Athletic Director): Kevin was torn about what to do… at that time he knew he wanted to play and wanted to get back as soon as he could - he was weighing all his options about the injections, surgery, or not pitch but play.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): Kevin's arm started hurting him when he was in 7th grade. We took him to a local doctor and they told us that he was growing so fast that his ligament was pulling from his growth plate. (They only did an x-ray). They told us to rest it and take ibuprofen. So he did not pitch in school ball or rec ball his 7th and 8th grade year. His 9th grade year he started back pitching. He complained off and on all season about his elbow. So I decided to go to a different doctor. That doctor told us about the same thing. Just said it was over used and had inflammation so rest it and take ibuprofen and ice it off and on. This rocked on and his arm was never getting any better. Then when Kevin was in 10th grade he had a hitting coach that was working with him who had also had elbow problems. He told Kevin that he may have a torn ucl and gave us the name of someone to contact about it. So, after covid shut everything down for several months, we finally got a virtual appointment with a PA in the Atlanta area. She said it sounds like a torn UCL. She referred us to Dr. Don Aaron in Statesboro. Dr. Aaron ordered an MRI with arthogram (the first doctor to order an MRI). So, January of 2021 Kevin had the MRI. Dr Aaron looked at the results and saw that Kevin had a partial tear in his UCL and that if he wanted to continue pitching that he would need to have surgery. We talked about different options. The first option we tried was the PRP injections in his elbow. We did 3 shots but his ligament had been torn for so long that the ends were dead and could not regenerate from the shots. So, Dr Aaron was blunt and said Kevin could continue to pitch and it would eventually tear or he could have surgery to fix it. At the time, Kevin also played 2nd base. He was told that if he never wanted to pitch again and just play the field that he did not have to have the surgery, but if he wanted to pitch again that he needed surgery. I left the decision up to Kevin and told him that he is the only one who knows how much pitching means to him. That is when Kevin decided it was his only option because pitching is what he was passionate about. He decided to have the Tommy John surgery so that ended his 11th grade baseball season when he had the surgery March 25, 2021. He was hoping to go ahead and have the surgery so he at least could have his senior year of ball.
Kevin Cox: Going back to finding out was a very hard decision on what I was going to do. The doctor left it up to me to decide what I wanted to do, but he left me with one statement. “If you ever want to pitch again you need to have surgery.” This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. A week had passed and we decided to try some shots to hopefully regain the ligament. That didn’t work so the only other options were to have surgery and miss my junior year and pitch senior year or not pitch the rest of my high school career. We went with the surgery route and not playing my junior year.
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): We knew he was having elbow trouble but none of us really knew the best path to proceed. There were a lot of conversations about the risks and rewards of going with the surgery and without. Ultimately, Kevin and his family decided it was worth the sacrifice of playing his junior season in order to have a shot at playing his senior year. It proved to be the right choice.
After surgery, you want to still be as much a part of your team as you can- physical limitations aside. If you can't play, maybe you can practice when it's safe. If you can't do that, you want to still be a presence- emotionally or personally. And it was a two-year process for Kevin to be a part- even if he couldn't throw a pitch.
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): He was just coming into his own in his 10th grade year…and then COVID hit. Most people forgot we were 11-1 and 5-0 in Region play when they called the season. No presence at all during the 2021 (his Junior year) because of Surgery and Rehab. But again, he was always there, sitting in the dugout, visualizing the game and thinking about his return, while always pulling for and encouraging his teammates.
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): He was always there. After his Tommy John surgery he was always there unless he had a doctors appointment or later on would have therapy. Other than that that he was always at games and practice. Even after his accident his senior year, 2-3 days after it happen he was back at practice and games with stitches, no teeth, and hand in a cast.
Tommy Dalley (VHS Athletic Director): Kevin was there daily…he was always around the guys and at the field - he was a fantastic teammate.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): 10th grade, Kevin played 2nd base and pitched. His 10th grade year was when COVID shut down all spring sports. He actually pitched the last game that year before it was announced the next day that all sports were canceled. His coach knew Kevin was going to have the Tommy John surgery his 11th grade year, therefore his coach gave him very little playing time. He played 2nd base some but his coach would not let him pitch at all because he didn't want to injure him anymore than he already was. After about a couple of weeks out of his surgery, Kevin started going to practice and games with his team. He wanted to stay involved with the team and show his support for them.
Kevin: I was with my team almost as much as possible when I had surgery. The day of my surgery I was at the ball field because it was senior night and I told my boys I would be there for them. Probably the only time I wasn’t with the team was when I had a doctors appointment about my arm. I loved being with the team and no matter what I chose they supported it.
Jordan Walden (Kevin's teammate): Kevin was at every single practice and game once he was in the condition where he could. He was a huge support to the team, even though I could tell it bothered him to not be out there with us on the field.
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): No matter what Kevin was going through, he never let it show on the field or in the dugout. He is the consummate teammate. Everyone knew he was disappointed and it hurt not having a big part of the team on the field. But Kevin was always cheering on his teammates and doing all the other little things it takes to make sure we got the most out of everyone. He’d keep charts, he cheered those that had success and comforted those that struggled. Even in his own struggles, he always was there for his teammates.
With only one year left, Kevin and the Cox family came out the other side of surgery, rehab, and COVID. So, VHS was chasing the title they thought they should have won in 2021 and Kevin got some good news heading into the season.
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): I believe he got clearance to play a couple of weeks before we played our 1st scrimmage game. Talking about jacked up…Kevin along with everyone around him was sky high for him and his return. He pitched an inning in our scrimmage against Wayne County and 4 innings against Tattnall Square and only gave up 5 hits and 1 earned run! This was after not having pitched since March of 2021!!
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): He kept throwing probably a week after his accident. Someone would catch the ball for him and he would throw it back. He wanted to keep his arm in shape and he wanted to be ready when he was cleared. At some point the doctor released him to play catch and take ground balls. Doctor told him if it didn't hurt he could do that but he still couldn't swing the bat. We started easing him back on defense. Of course we hit for him and eventually we started letting him pitch and started getting his pitch count back up.
Tommy Dalley (VHS Athletic Director): I was around Kevin in the weight room as he made his way back - we would push him to do auxiliary lifts and workouts to better himself and to feel like he was making progress. He knew he was limited in the lifts but he was always willing to try things that made him feel better about the process.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): After about 6 months, Kevin got his clearance to start a throwing program. I can remember him being so excited that he could actually pick up a baseball and throw it. His first day throwing we all went out to the field to watch him throw that first ball. The program started off slow but gradually got longer in distance. We were all very excited when he threw for the first time because he said it felt so good and didn’t hurt. Being able to throw again was a blessing because Kevin was so worried that he would never pick up a ball again.
Kevin: I got cleared to throw a baseball around 6 or 7 months and it was a very stressful and scary moment in my life. I was stressed and scared because it was getting close to baseball and I was stressed because I didn’t know if I was gonna get better in time or if the surgery even worked.
Jordan Walden (Kevin's teammate): Once he got his clearance he was fired up and working hard to get back where he was at before injury . I actually can remember first day of team bullpens me and him were on the mound together and he threw is personal best fastball at 87. It shocked everyone and then it quickly turned into a friendly competition that day to who could throw the hardest . Crazy thing was he had not been on the mound much at all up to this point which was very impressing in my eyes.
You get into a rhythm in a season, and everything is working the way you want. The team is winning games, heading into region play, and just when the Cox's think everything is behind them in Kevin's high school career, it's not...
What seemed like an ordinary pop-up against Appling County turned into a whole lot more...
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): It was one of those games that you were just ready to get over. I mean we were 3-7 and knew the Region was about 2 weeks away, so everyone was kind of focusing on trying to get a win, but really thinking about the Region and completing what the guys called “unfinished business.”
The injury happened in the 1st inning. Kevin was playing 2nd base and a foul ball was popped up behind first base toward the fence. Kevin gave chase and actually over ran the ball a bit and when he turned back toward the fence, he was closer than he thought and ran face first into the fence post. I mean squared it up! An inch either way and he probably walks away with a cut or scraped face. But when I tell you he centered it…I mean he centered it! I have seen bad things happen in baseball. ACL tears, broken legs and arms…but this was the single worst baseball injury I have ever seen! It was pretty gruesome. He broke his nose, had a cut about 2 inches long above his chin that was all the way through, knocked out 3 teeth and fractured his left hand. Just brutal! He was spitting teeth and pouring blood everywhere. But all he could think about was playing ball.
Obviously, we were distracted and lost that game with everyone worried about Kevin. But to the team’s credit, they turned that negative into a positive and after a loss to 3A Semifinalist Pierce County, went on an 11-game win streak heading into the Jeff Davis Series, which included a win over 4A Semifinalist Benedictine.
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): As Coaches we always have our projected lineup for the season. That's based on what they did last year and what they done the first four weeks of practice. Appling game was the start of week 4 of the season. The first hitter of the game I remember telling one of the coaches that this was the first game that we had all 9 starters on the field. The next hitter Kevin would hit the fence. Our projected starting nine lasted one hitter. We saw Kevin hit the fence and really didn't think it was that bad from the dugout. I remember stepping out of the dugout, our right fielder Jordan Walden was close because he was also chasing the ball. Kevin was down on his hands and knees, as soon as Jordan got to him he started waving his arms in a panic, I knew then something wasn't good. When I got to him it was the worst baseball accident I had ever seen. He was spitting up blood and had teeth on the ground. He was even choking on his blood some so we had to keep him sitting up. It was bad. He was in alot of pain. His Mom came on the field and she was great trying to keep Kevin calmed down. I remember one of the Appling County coaches coming over to us and saying a prayer for him. It seems like it took a long time to get an ambulance there and to get him stable and get him in the ambulance. I wasn't sure if he would ever play again let alone do what he did when he came back.
Tommy Dalley (VHS Athletic Director): One word - TERRIBLE - I was sitting down the third base line and could see the accident from a distance - when I saw Ty and Jordan start waving for the trainer I knew it would be bad but had no idea it was to the extent it was…. I came across the field and saw the blood and teeth on the ground with Kevin laying there holding his face… we knew the trainer was on the way and even she was taken back. At that point, everyone wanted to help but knew we needed to listen for instructions on what to do. We called the ambulance and waited for the to arrive while the trainer and family tried to comfort him.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): The Appling game was a preseason game. This was the first time Kevin had played 2nd base this year. He had been playing shortstop because our shortstop was hurt and he had been pitching. I remember Kevin being glad to be back at 2nd base. He liked playing 2nd more than shortstop. It was the first inning. I think it was the 2nd or 3rd batter. The batter hit a pop up just behind first base in foul territory. I remember Kevin running and looking up the entire time. The catcher yelled “Got room” like he normally does. All of a sudden Kevin hits the fence. I know players run into fences all the time and get hurt a little but I never expected what I saw next. Kevin was down on his hands and knees staring at the ground. He then started hitting the ground really hard. One of the players motioned for the coach. The coach then called for the trainer. I got up and ran over to him and when I got there all I could see was blood pouring out of his face. At that time we really had no idea what all was wrong with him except he had knocked out 2 of his bottom teeth and was bleeding from his mouth and nose. One of the Appling County coaches came over and asked could he pray with us and of course we said absolutely. I know each team huddled up and prayed after we left the field. They called the ambulance because he was bleeding so badly and in excruciating pain. We did not really know the extent of his injuries until we got to the hospital. When he hit the fence it was actually the pole he hit face first. He broke all his bones from the spine of his nose down. He chipped his top 2 teeth, knocked out 2 bottom teeth and had to have one removed, fractured all bones in his chin so he had to have 3 bone grafts. He had a laceration to his chin that was completely cut through. He also broke his glove hand (boxer fracture).
Kevin Cox: I remember almost everything about the game. It was the second pitch to the second batter of the game and when he hit that ball it looked close to me and I remember thinking I had room and I kept on running telling myself I got this. I looked down fro a split second and boom I hit the fence. After I hit the fence I was on my hands and knees and I knew I was bleeding and my nose bleeds bad anyways so I figured it was just my nose and I remember looking up and that’s when one of my teeth feel back into the back of my mouth and then looking back at the ground and pushing it out with my tongue. That’s when I realized this was a lot worse than I thought. After I settled down and accepted everything that happened to my face I had this sharp pain in my hand and I looked at it and knew it was broke as soon as I looked at it. After a few days I had lost 10 pounds because I wasn’t able to eat but my biggest worry was if I was going to even play my senior year.
Jordan Walden (Kevin's teammate): Appling County is a very good team, and we all knew this going into the game which made it a very exciting matchup . Once the game had started we were all ready to go and play some competitive baseball that day. I can remember vividly the accident as the ball was hit me and Kevin got a very good jump on the pop up hit to shallow right field . We were both running as hard as we could to the ball as we got closer and closer to the ball I could hear Kevin’s foot steps getting louder as he headed towards the ball . At the last second I looked up to find Kevin and noticed we were both really close to the fence . I slowed up and broke down a few steps before the fence as I watched Kevin coming in. Once Kevin made it to where I was slowing up his head was up watching the ball he was going full speed it. Then I realized he was going way to fast to be able to slow up . Once he hit the fence I was the first one that got to him, and as soon as I got to him I grabbed him and told him to look up at me. When he looked up towards me on my knees I knew it was worse than I thought. I yelled for the trainer and coaches to hurry to the spot. First thing he told me was “ My teeth, there gone” so I told him to wipe off some of the blood that was covering his face at this point that he was going to be okay that the trainer was on the way. When he wiped some of the blood off I could tell a tooth was chipped . Once I saw his tooth was chipped , I saw two of his teeth fall onto the grass. We both realized that his teeth had just hit the ground around the same time I panicked and so did he . A few seconds later the trainer arrived and calmed him down and then the ambulance arrived. We were all in shock the rest of this entire game from what happened to one of our best friends.
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): We knew Appling County was going to be a big measuring stick as far as where we were as a team at that point in the season. Everyone was hyped up for the game and ready to perform at a high level.
The play he got hurt on happened in the first inning and was a relatively routine play. Kevin was playing second and ran over to foul territory behind first to catch a popup. Even when he collided with the fence, it didn’t look very serious. However the look on his teammate’s faces who were close to him, and the way they reacted, let everyone in the park know that it was very serious. Honestly, the thing that stuck with me the most was the look on Coach Korn’s face when he got back to the dugout from being out there with Kevin. It was a look I’ll never forget. He was visibly upset and heartbroken for Kevin. Even at that point, we knew it was serious enough that he was more than likely done for the season.
But, as we all learned in this process, never count Kevin Cox out of anything involving his high school teammates and program. A month later, he came back ready to play...
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): So, after more surgery, and some serious soul searching, Kevin was back and ready to go in just 4 weeks. Think about it! 4 weeks and he’s ready to play again! He got his first crack on the mound in relief against Jeff Davis, going 3 innings, allowing 3 hits and no runs! Kid hasn’t pitched in over a month (41 days) and pitches like he never missed a day!! He then pitched 1 more inning on April 19th and didn’t pitch again until April 29th when he threw 1 inning in our first playoff series.
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): You have to remember he missed a lot of baseball the past two years. I'm that coach and I tell the guys this also, but in the play-offs you roll with who is out. Kevin was starting at second base when the play-offs started but we were hitting for him because he had missed so many at bats. We also a DH who hit .516 in the play-off run so Kevin was the guy we hit for. In the Elite 8 round, we were beating Callaway pretty bad in game 2 so I let Kevin get an at bat. Well, he hits a three run bomb. Well I couldn't not let him hit after that so we let him hit the next round against Lovett. He didn't disappoint at the plate and swung it well the last two rounds.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): After this injury, Kevin did not get much pitching time nor hitting. The coach said he was in a slump so he was allowing Kevin to play 2nd base and had another player DH for him. The only time Kevin was getting any pitching time was in relief situations. Up until this year, Kevin had always been one of the starting pitchers but now he was the relief pitcher. So really all they were needing Kevin for was to play 2nd base. It wasn’t until the playoffs that they realized, hey he can contribute more than just as 2nd baseman.
Kevin: I wasn’t able to be around the team as much as I was with my Tommy John because I had stitches in my mouth and I couldn’t really talk or laugh but as soon as I was able to open my mouth I was with he team as much as possible. Being a part of the team when we won meant the world to me knowing everything I had been through and knowing the team never gave up on me also meant a lot.
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): Coach Korn always posts the lineup in the dugout before the game and I can just remember Kevin being so excited to be back in the lineup. Truth be known, we all were.
Vidalia made it to the final four before their appearance in the championship series and there was one more piece of news Kevin got involving his time as an Indian. After all the surgery, rehab, in-game injuries, and recovery it was time to pitch once again for his team in one of the biggest moments of the year.
The deciding game of the season against Lovett was going to have him play a major part...
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): He came to the mound in the Lovett game with the game tied 3-3 in the top of the 2nd inning with 2 outs and records the 3rd out. He then gave up his only run of the game in the top of the 3rd on an infield single to give Lovett the lead 4-3. From that point on he went 1,2,3 in the 4th and 5th, and gave up a single and a walk in the 6th. We were down 4-3 in the bottom of the 6th when junior 3rd baseman Walker Moncus hit a 2-run HR to give us a 5-4 lead. In the top of the 6th Kevin gave up back to back singles and you start to wonder if he’s going to be able to finish….but to his credit, he gets the next guy to pop a bunt up and he races off the mound to catch it, spin, and fire a perfect throw to Ty Dalley on first base to produce a double play. Then he gets the next batter to fly to right field to Jordan Walden, who he replaced on the mound and the rest is history.
The atmosphere was unbelievable! He definitely fed off the crowd in that game and also the Championship game. We have THE BEST Student section around and they really were into the game which gave him and the rest of the team some added energy.
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): It was a shot in the arm getting him back for the play-offs. Last year he was out and also our starting center fielder was also out and we feel like we could of won it then if them two were not hurt.. Having him back just made our pitching staff that much deeper. We wasn't sure how deep he could go in a game but we had him if we needed him.
Tommy Dalley (VHS Athletic Director): I was happy to see Kevin take the field and slowly work his way back…. He had been through so much adversity. He began to make an impact right away and find his place.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): Kevin was told the starting pitcher would be on a very tight rope. So in the 2nd inning with 2 outs they called Kevin into pitch. I knew he was ready. He had been telling me how much he wanted to pitch. He went into this game with his mindset of doing his job and moving us to the next level. My heart was bursting because I knew pitching was what he loved and he was finally getting a chance to show them all what he is capable of doing.
Kevin Cox: When I got brought into the game I knew that I had to save the game and hold Lovett to where they wouldn’t score anymore runs. It was getting near the end of the game and we were still down by one run and it was our at bat. Lovett shortstop made an error and that put a runner on first with Walker Moncus up to bat the first pitch he hit and he hit it out, that homer put us on top and that only meant we need 3 more outs to advance to the state championship. We took the field and I was still pitching 2 runners were able to get on and that brought up one of their better hitters and I threw the first pitch and it was a ball but he showed bunt and pulled back. The next pitch was a strike and this time he bunted it right back to me so I ran up and caught it and the guy on first was running to second and he was so far off the bag that I threw it to first to get a double play. That means we need only one more out. The batter swung at the first pitch and hit it to right field in the air where the third out was made. Then we advanced to the State Championship.
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): When Kevin got back and was cleared to play it was a shot in the arm to us as a team. We had been playing very well at that point, but he was the missing piece that we knew could help make a really good team, a great team.
Jordan Walden (Kevin's teammate): It meant the world to everyone . It showed his true love and passion for this great game of baseball . Not many people I know can go through what he did playing this game and not give up and keep fighting. He wanted to be out there and on that field with us more than anything and it showed.
It was amazing him being out there after all he had went through. He is a true competitor.
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): It was huge! He was there, again, every game! He would be in the dugout encouraging and helping out anyway he could!
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): We knew Kevin had good stuff but our fear was that we wasn't sure how long he could go in a game. At the beginning of the season we were keeping his pitch count down after coming off surgery so going into the play-offs we wasn't sure how much we could get out of him.. Our starting pitcher got in trouble in the second inning against Lovett. It was a game three situation and we didn't have time to wait so we rolled him out there in the second inning. He would allow 1 run thru 5 plus innings. He was on. Had all three pitches going and was pounding the zone. He was BACK.
Tommy Dalley (VHS Athletic Director): We knew Kevin was a strike thrower…when he came in it was a matter of throwing strikes and trusting the guys behind him - that in itself gave him a tremendous amount of confidence.
Vidalia would advance to the finals and would win at home on another Game Three decider against Thomasville- winning 7-0. Cox pitched a complete game, two-hitter striking out nine.
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): It was a surprise for him to start…he pitched a grand total of 11.1 innings since the injury and had not started a game since February 21st in a loss against Class A Champion Metter. Now he’s been told on the way home from game two in the Championship Series, that he’s going to get the ball in the Championship Game!!! Are you kidding me? That’s what makes this such a cool story!! Of course, he goes 7 innings, gives up no runs, 2 hits, 2 walks and struck out 9 batters, including the last three batters he faced in the bottom of the 7th!
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): To be such a big game, it was very calming to know Kevin was out there. Kevin has always had that effect. He is always very poised and goes about his business in a very calm manner. It’s easy to say now, but we knew the game was in the right hands with him on the mound.
But, unlike several of his friends and teammates, Kevin hadn't found a collegiate home. It's understandable. There wasn't a whole lot of a book on Kevin just the stories and triumphs that get us to this part of the tale. But, with some of his teammates garnering interest from USC-Aiken, this run to the finish was one of the easiest sells you could make once they came back to look at those student-athletes that were already heading north.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): Most of the seniors who wanted to play ball at the next level had already signed. Kevin had only one school talk to him and they wanted him to come and be a preferred walkon. He would have walked on somewhere but he really just wanted someone to reach out and want him for his talent. When he was given the chance to pitch the last game of the championship game, that sealed it for him. He had college coaches start texting him on the way home that day. It was a huge relief and overwhelming feeling when USC-Aiken reached out. He has other schools reach out as well, but it was once he met the pitching coach he had the most comfortable feeling and contentment knowing that they chose him and wanted him on their pitching roster. All he could do for a while was just smile with happiness and relief that he now knew he would play ball at the college level.
Kevin Cox: By this time I found out that my name was getting thrown around colleges and that made me super excited. USCA got into with me and wanted to watch me throw in person. Me and the pitching coach met at the high school and watched me throw and that was when I was offered by USCA. It meant a lot to me that I was getting college offers because of all the things I had been through and how hard I have worked to get where I am today.
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): Well, everyone around here knew he could pitch. The problem was, he didn’t have a whole lot of film or work to go off of. I told their pitching Coach Jason Richman that he should give him a look…fortunately he did. He saw something in him that made him want to give him a chance. I think that something was that he has grit, determination and a super attitude. He’s good, but he doesn’t flaunt it. He’s not a “Me guy.”
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): I know Jason Richmond the pitching coach at Aiken so it was great to see him come to our campus to see him throw a bullpen. I knew he would like him, Kevin just needed the chance. Jason stood in the batters box the last couple of pitches. That's a lot of pressure on a kid to have a college pitching coach stand in the batters box and you pitch.. Kevin handled that like a pro, it was a done deal after that.
Ben Beck (Vidalia asst. baseball coach): We knew Kevin would receive some attention based on his performance in the playoffs. You can’t pitch the way he did in those HUGE situations and people not notice. It was good to see him get the recognition for not only his skill as a player, but for his perseverance and character.
Seeing Kevin sign was the pinnacle of a journey that was tougher than most athletes ever dream they’ll have to go through. It was truly the “storybook ending” for a kid you can’t help but root for.
John Koon (Vidalia play-by-play announcer): Gotta tell you, I teared up! In fact, as I was welcoming everyone and giving his story, I had to pause to gather myself in front of an auditorium full of people. I mean just to know that this young man had gone through everything he had gone through, and now he was about to get a chance to keep his dream alive….it was pretty emotional! But to know he stayed the course and persevered, despite everything he had gone through, was a great ending to a story that you only see in the movies!
Brent Korn (VHS Head Baseball Coach): I think we all had tears in our eyes. In today's world a lot of guys would just quit and say it wasn't worth it or it's too hard. Not our boy Kevin. He's a baseball dude who loves baseball. He's a poster Child of what hard work and never giving up on your dreams can get you. He will do big things in College because of the size of his heart. You can't measure that.
Tommy Dalley (VHS Athletic Director): We were super happy for him… that's what Kevin wanted was an opportunity to play somewhere and go to school. We all knew he had overcome so many obstacles to get that opportunity, it was definitely a special moment.
Kellie Cox (Kevin's Mom): Kevin’s dream has always been to play at the next level. Of course every little boy wants to play MLB but right now playing at the college level is a dream come true. When he got the calls and went back and forth on what to do, I just told him he had to go with the school and coaches that he feels the most comfortable with and the ones where he felt the most at home. That is when he told me he chose USC-Aiken. I was so excited for him and excited to watch his expression when he made his choice. The day he signed all I could do was smile and thank God for allowing Kevin this chance. It was just a few months before that we never thought he would play at the next level or at least he would have to walk on somewhere and hope for the best. He has made us very proud by never giving up and always working hard to be better than he was before both accidents. It makes a mama proud when their child’s dreams fall into place. I can’t wait to continue this journey with him and see where it leads him next.
Kevin Cox: It was a life changing moment when I signed that piece of paper knowing I was going to a school that is going to help me grow and going to try their hardest to make sure I become successful in my baseball career. I am also excited to meet new people and pitch for at the next level.
Ty Dalley (son of VHS athletic director.): Going back to the first Injury with Kevin, everyone knew he would fight through it and try his best to make a recovery because that’s just who he was. Kevin was always around, throughout his recover process and when he wasn’t in rehab he always was at practice and games there supporting the team. When he was cleared I remember hearing the talks from the guys saying how hard Kevin came back throwing the ball. I was playing basketball during this time but I soon saw for myself the huge recovery jumps Kevin had made. The appling county game was just a normal game until that second inning. With me playing first I saw it first hand, Kevin doing what he always does, playing the game with every ounce of effort he had and in this situation sprinting after a foul ball down the right field line. I saw Kevin hit the fence wide open and go straight to all fours coughing up what looked to be blood. I sprinted over to see a gruesome injury to his mouth and hand.
The ambulance came and loaded Kevin and took him off to get checked out while we (the team) was still in absolute shock. I remember the game being hard to focus on because on of our teammates had been taken away yet again from the game we all loved. Kevin after the second injury was still always around and trying to make a speedy recovery to help US achieve our goals. And that’s what he did. Kevin was in my opinion the most important player on the team throughout our title run. Him pitching the Lovett game the way he did was nothing less than phenomenal.
But it was crazy, the amount of people and the pressure on Kevin during that game almost seemed to not even phase him. He was cool, calm, and collected on the mound at all times with one goal in mind. That was to get to the state championship. He got us to the state championship and then continued in that derided to pitch a one hit championship game to close off his career at VHS. It was amazing to be alongside his journey and watch him preserve and stay the course the way he did. It paid off all the rehab,tears, and work paid off. He is going to pitch and play college baseball at an amazing program in South Carolina. I am beyond proud of Kevin and all he accomplished and went through. Not many could have done what he did and that’s what made him the comeback kid.
Jordan Walden (Kevin's teammate): Kevin had the determination for this sport like no other. He never gave up when he had plenty of opportunity too . Things didn’t go like he wanted them too at times, but he kept his head up and kept fighting. That passion for this sport earned him a scholarship that was well earned and I am so proud and happy for Kevin Cox. A brotherhood that will last forever.
So, when you head to your college baseball games of choice this season, keep the Cox's in mind. If perseverance had its own baseball card, Kevin Cox would certainly be a part of that set.