Keith Holcombe stays with baseball



Cody Estremera

For the last three years, Keith Holcombe has jumped straight from the national championship into baseball mode. The first two years, he played the first weeks of the season before returning to football for the start of spring practice. But this year, football coach Nick Saban said that he would remain with baseball for the rest of the season.

“Keith wanted to give baseball his best shot,” Saban said after Alabama’s first spring practice. “Keith would be a fifth-year senior. He’s been through four spring practices here already. I made him a promise when we recruited him that he could play baseball. He’s always tried to do both.”

The decision ultimately was left up to Holcombe. 

“I think any baseball coach would say this, but when a kid is on a football scholarship it’s football’s decision,” baseball coach Brad Bohannon said. “It’s really out of our hands. Coach [Saban] has been really supportive. Keith is the ultimate student athlete. I mean we are talking about a young man who has his degree, is exceptionally mature, manages diabetes. If there is anybody who can do two sports, its a guy with Keith’s maturity.”

Holcombe is Alabama’s starting left fielder and has started 21 of the 22 games in which he has made an appearance.

He is hitting .318, which is third on the team, has been hit by seven pitches, which is second on the team and has knocked in 14 RBIs this season. He is tied for fourth on the team in multi-hit games with six, and has two four-hit games. 

“Every day when we see Keith, we know we have a good chance to win a game,” senior pitcher Jake Walters said. “He doesn’t talk about [football] too much. When he is over here, he is in baseball mode.”

Holcombe is a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He played football and baseball at Hillcrest High School. He is one of four players on Alabama’s current baseball roster from Tuscaloosa. 

Sophomore pitcher Deacon Medders faced him one time before Holcombe graduated from high school. Medders said that Holcombe went 1 for 2 against him with a walk. 

“It was a real chore to get him out in high school,” Medders said. “That’s a big guy. Pitching against him in the preseason, he’s a tough guy to have in the box. You know he’s going to fight, and even if you go 0-2 against him, you’ll likely throw 11 pitches in that at-bat. He’s going to fight you for every inch of that batter’s box.”

A return to football is not out of the question for Holcombe. He finished with 38 tackles in 2017 and made three starts when senior linebackers Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton missed games from injuries. He made 22 tackles in those three starts.

The former four-star recruit would be a redshirt senior if he chooses to return. 

“We met after the season and I said that ‘You’ve been through plenty of spring practices. Why don’t you just play baseball, do the best you can [at] baseball. When baseball season is over you and I will sit down and decide if you want to come back for your fifth year,’” Saban said. “That’s what  he doing. He’s totally focusing on baseball, which I’m good with. We’d love for him to come back in the fall. I hope he chooses to do that.”