Whispering Pines man runs baseball league

WHISPERING PINES — Alec Allred of Whispering Pines is making a career out of baseball, and it’s not on the field. He’s the president of the Old North State League, a summer college circuit that wrapped up what he called a successful season earlier this summer.

“This is my full-time job now, trying to coordinate everything,” Allred said. “It’s a lot that goes into it, but it’s a ton of fun.”

The Sandhills Bogeys, who are based in Pinehurst, won the 2022 championship, beating the Hendersonville Honeycrisps in the final.

Allred, 27, grew up in Ramseur, and his family has strong connections to American Legion baseball in Randolph County.

“Finding a role in baseball seemed like a natural pursuit,” Allred said. After high school, he had a redshirt year at North Carolina A&T followed by a season at Rockingham Community College and then a couple of seasons with Division III Peace College. Then came time in some independent leagues.

“I’m done playing,” he said. “I held on as long as I could.”

He saw other opportunities, particularly when it came to filling a niche for college-aged players in a wooden bat league. The ONSL began with eight teams and 125 players in 2019, using two fields. Then during the 2020 pandemic-ravaged season, the ONSL fielded eight teams with bigger rosters and spread out.

“Those other leagues shut down, and we were getting guys who had a higher caliber (of experience),” Allred said.

The 2022 version of the league had 13 teams with about 400 players. Recently, another team was added with a club in Clayton to begin playing in 2023. Allred, who conducts baseball lessons in the offseason, said he could envision the league growing to 18 teams.

It takes about $40,000 annually to run each team. Players are required to pay to play, but that might tend to create a commitment to stick without throughout the two-month season. Host families help with out-of-area players.

“We’re climbing and slowly getting better players,” Allred said. “My goal is to make it free for players. … You’re always trying to be better and get the league to new heights,”

The venues used by the league are vastly different from city to city. The High Point Hushpuppies play at Truist Point, which is the permanent home of the Atlantic League’s High Point Rockers. High school fields are used in Sanford and Shallotte, while facilities are well past their primes in places such as Reidsville and Swepsonville.

“There’s definitely a big variety of stadiums,” Allred said. “You have some old mill-league fields.”

Rosters generally hold about 30-some players. Most of the ONSL players come from Division II, Division III, or junior colleges – or are about to join teams on those levels. Allred said he has embraced an underdog mentality.

“I do get a little partial to the smaller-school guys. Largely, players compete for teams that are local to where they live. About 25 percent of players come from out of the area,” said Allred.

By Bob Sutton

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