Champion’s tale

Published 7:43 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Escambia County Lady Blue Devils head softball coach Daryl Otwell shows off his four state championship rings.|Photo by Chandler Myers

High school athletes around the state dream about winning a state championship for their school in one of the major sports, but each year only a handful of them are able to accomplish that goal.

Escambia County Lady Blue Devils head softball coach Daryl Otwell has an extraordinary story to carry with him as he was not only able to win a state championship, but won four in baseball during his high school years.

Otwell grew up in the northern part of the state in a small town where athletics are the thing to do, he said.

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“I grew up in Hokes Bluff, which is in the far north part of the state,” Otwell said. “It was a small town and we were a 3A and 4A school in high school. Where I’m from it was mainly sports. Everybody played sports and that’s just the way it was. Especially with football and baseball, but we weren’t much of a basketball school, but it was definitely an athletes atmosphere.”

During his time with the Hokes Bluff Eagles, Otwell was active in baseball, basketball and football with success primarily in baseball and football.

Otwell was successful individually in all three sports earning several accolades.

The different honors included being named to All-State teams as well as being Player of the Year in Alabama, Otwell said.

“I played baseball, football and basketball,” he said. “I played quarterback in football, short stop in baseball and shooting guard in basketball. We weren’t real talented in basketball, but I was awarded All-County my junior and senior years. In football, I was awarded All-Area in my junior and senior years and we made it to the semifinals in my junior year before getting defeated. In baseball, I was a four-time All-State, All-Area and All-County player and then my senior year, I was awarded Class 3A Player of the Year.”

Aside from the individual recognitions, Otwell is more proud to have four state championship rings.

Winning four championships is something that he knows he is lucky to have been able to do, he said.

“As a team we won four state championships in baseball,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to play for a program that not only one championship, but one that won four straight. It was quite an accomplishment.”

Winning the Class 3A Player of the Year and a state championship was a tall task for Otwell and his teammates during his senior season at Hokes Bluff.

The season started on a low note as the Eagles were winless in their first 10, but hard work by the team helped him accomplish the award and another state title, he said.

“With that award, it was funny because my senior year we started out the season 0-10 and it was awful,” Otwell said. “After that, we went on to win 28 games straight. Winning 3A Player of the Year was a great achievement, but it really reflects a lot on your team. Hard work went into winning that title and the others too.”

While growing up, sports along with school were the focus for Otwell, who dreamed the same dream of young athletes all over the world.

His attention to sports never relaxed enough for him to consider his future, but when he did think about it, he wanted to be on a professional diamond somewhere, he said.

“Growing up I never thought much about it,” OtwelI said. “I had that little kid dream that I was always going to play professional baseball or play a professional sport. That was always in my head, and growing up I always just played sports. I kept my grades up and tried to the right thing to where I could continue to play. It panned out to where I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, and when I got to college I realized there were a lot of good players and this might not be something I would do forever. I decided that if I couldn’t play sports for the rest of my life that I might have the knowledge to spread what I have learned during my playing career.”

Once his high school career ended, Otwell took his talents to Calhoun Community College for a year and then moved to Troy University where he played baseball.

The talent level in college was something that Otwell noticed immediately along with the fact the he would be competing for a spot on the roster.

The attitudes of the game were the largest difference that came in college, Otwell said.

���Well the main difference is at the high school level you have guys that want to win games, but at the college level you have guys that are treating it as a job,” he said. “It’s also different because at that level, the competition for nine spots includes 40 to 50 guys and it doesn’t matter if you were All-State because those guys are coming from all over the place. The competition level was much different.”

Now that college is behind him and he is coaching with Escambia County High School, Otwell is trying to use what he learned from his coaches and his mentor.

Learning from so many people really helped him know how to teach the players at ECHS, he said.

“Being around sports and coaches all of my life really put it into perspective for me,” Otwell said. “Really, it goes back to being able to mentor and spread the knowledge that I have with the athletes that are coming up now. My biggest mentor I would have to say is my oldest brother Dustin Otwell. He was always playing baseball growing up and I was kind of living in his shadow. A lot of people don’t like that, but it just motivated me to play well and be better than he was.”