Former Cleburne County High and Cen tral Alabama Community College (CACC) standout Alex Lee will take his passion for baseball to Samford University this fall. Lee hit .317 with a .433 on-base percentage as a sophomore at CACC during the 2014 season. His 53 hits included 10 doubles, a triple and seven home runs. With Samford losing its 2014 first baseman to graduation, Bulldogs coach Casey Dunn saw Lee hit home runs in junior college games at the University of Alabama’s home field and at Samford last fall. Dunn didn’t need to see more to sell him on Lee as his first baseman for the next two years.

Even though he knows he has a place to continue playing beyond the junior college level, Lee isn’t resting on his laurels. Wynn Fletcher, CACC’s head baseball coach, nominated Lee for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Na tional team and Lee was one of 26 junior college players from across the nation to make the team.

“Really, what solidified my spot on the team was me hitting four home runs in the first five games this year,” Lee said Wednesday. “That pretty much solidified my spot on the roster because I found out shortly after that that I had made the team.”

At the beginning of the 2014 season, Lee said he felt pitchers decided to challenge him because of his work on CACC’s 2013 junior college world series championship team. He had no problem responding to the challenges, matching his 2013 home run total in his first five games and hitting five homers in his initial 10 games. After that, Lee saw fewer and fewer good pitches as opponents pitched around him, leading to 30 walks by the end of the year.

“It was to a point to where when I got in a 2-0 count, which is obviously a great hitter’s count, I’d still see a curve ball,” Lee recalled. “Sometimes when I’d get 3-0, I’d still see a curve ball.”

Still, Lee’s seven round-trippers on the season accounted for more than half of the 13 home runs CACC had as a team in 2014.

Iowa Western Community College base ball coach Marc Rardin, the head for the NJCAA National team and a two-time NJ CAA national coach of the year, took note of Lee’s power, too, in making the selec tions for the National team. As a result, Lee flies from Atlanta to Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday. From there, NJCAA representa tives will transport Lee and the other mem bers of the NJCAA National team the short distance across the Missouri River to Iowa Western’s campus in Council Bluffs for a few days of practice together.

From Council Bluffs, Lee and his new teammates head to Wichita, Kansas, for the 80th annual National Baseball Congress World Series. Lee described the tourna ment at the biggest wood bat tournament in the country over the summer.

“Hopefully, I can go out there and do some good things. Just playing the game for a good 20 days is going to be super-ben eficial going into Samford in the fall and getting ready for fall play,” Lee said. “I think the thing I want to get most out of it is going out there and performing well in front of some different eyes, in front of some different scouts.”

The Alex Lee those different eyes will see is not the Alex Lee they would have seen in Lee’s days as a Cleburne County Tiger. He’s still 6-foot-3 but has filled out to somewhere between 195 and 200 pounds and is still looking to get stronger.

“I’ve worked extremely hard. That’s where I put in most of my efforts these past two years, in the weight room,” Lee said. “I really didn’t work like I should have in high school. Now, I’m a lot more athletic and more explosive and just a whole lot better athlete in general.”

Not even winning the junior college world series as a freshman distracted Lee from his efforts to improve.

“It’s an all-year thing for me,” he said of his commitment to baseball. “I may have taken a week for myself, maybe not that long. … I wake up every day looking at me bettering myself. That’s the biggest thing. I don’t take many days off.”