It’s hard to believe that the Madison County all-star with a rocket arm just a few summers years ago was that wild-haired University of Georgia reliever heaving 95 mph fastballs in the College World Series.
Really, have that many baseball seasons passed?
Joshua Fields, who sported a tight, armed forces-like haircut during his Madison County all-star glory days, now looks like a lead guitarist with that near shoulder-length hair spilling out from under has ball cap, the teenaged face replaced with menacing reliever’s stubble.
It’s part of the closer’s handbook. You can’t look like a nice guy when you’re throwing missiles past want-to-be-heroes in the ninth inning.
Experts (like ESPN analyst and former Cy Young Award Winner Orel Hershiser) predict a quick ascension to the majors for the kid from Hull they called “Hound Dog,” who lit up the all-star circuit while growing up in Madison County. If or when that happens, Fields would join Jake Westbrook — another Madison County Little League all-star alum — as the second Madison County native pitching in the Big Leagues.
Not bad for a county of 28,012 people (thanks, Wikipedia).
But the better Fields gets, it’s hard not to think back to when the SEC’s most dominant closer to-be was a kid from Madison County playing all-star baseball.
Since he never played for Madison County High School (he prepped at Prince Avenue Christian School), Fields built his baseball legacy around the county on some stellar all-star performances.
With his prowess on the mound and at the plate, Hound Dog was the catalyst that drove the Madison County Senior League all-stars to a state championship in 2002. That team came one run shy of the Senior League World Series during that great summer.
Not surprisingly, he went on to breeze through high school baseball at Prince Avenue.
And he’s been nothing short of spectacular in four years of college ball in the bullpen as the great protector of Bulldog leads.
With a tremendous fastball and a breaking ball that falls right off the table, Fields had nailed down his 18th save in 18 save opportunities Monday night during the CWS national title series.
He’ll leave college baseball as one of UGA’s best hurlers and as the SEC’s best closer. Forty-one saves don’t lie.
Next, he’ll try to set fire to the Minor Leagues and, hopefully soon, the Major Leagues.
Joshua Fields has made it. Anyone who remembers watching him play as an all-star knew he would.
Even when the moment seems predestined, a local rising to the top never fails to captivate us.
Ben Munro is a reporter for The Madison County Journal.