South Georgia is home to some of the most talented baseball players in our nation’s history. When you speak of South Georgia baseball, legends like Jackie Robinson and Bucky Dent come to mind. An influx of new talent has recently made its way to the top, such as Adam Wainwright, Josh Reddick, Byron Buxton, Lorenzo Cain, and the Drew brothers (JD and Stephen).
Dayton “D.L.” Hall, the left-handed pitcher and projected first-round prospect from Valdosta High School, comes from that same mold. The 6’2”, 180-pound senior is widely considered to be one of the best players in the nation, which is justified by his numerous all-American awards, full ride scholarship to Florida State University, and top 10 national rankings across nearly every prospect board. With a consistently mid-90’s fastball that has peaked at 97 mph, complimented by a deep arsenal of knee-buckling off-speed pitches, the left-handed pitcher is a lethal threat at every level of the game.
However, greatness comes with a price. At the end of his ninth-grade year, Hall and his family made a difficult decision to move away from the Valdosta area.
“It was tough going away from all of my family and friends, but I knew it’s what I needed to do to get exposure for my baseball career,” Hall said.
Recognizing early on that his baseball talents presented serious career potential, this move was made to further maximize exposure to college scouts. They settled just south of Macon in the military town of Warner Robins. The primary motive, according to Hall and his family, was that it allowed him to more easily and frequently play with his travel baseball team.
“A big part in (the decision to move to Warner Robins) was me being able to play with my travel team, Chain Baseball, which is based out of the Warner Robins area,” Hall said. “That’s where I first met my teammates who encouraged me and my dad to make the move up there.”
Although his travel team took him north, Houston County High School reaped the benefits of that move. However, the Bears experienced some ups and downs, despite what was considered a remarkably talented team.
“The year before I got there (2014), they won the state championship, and pretty much everyone was returning the next year, so I thought we were going to be really good,” Hall said. “Turns out we struggled a lot and ended up going 13-11 that year (2015) and completely missed the playoffs. But last year (2016), we tore it up and ended up winning the state title, so it all worked out in the end.”
At the end of his junior year, with a scholarship all but locked up and a state championship ring on his hand, Hall decided to move back home for one more season with the hometown Valdosta Wildcats.
“The reason I decided to come back home and play is because I wanted to be home for my senior year,” Hall said. “I wanted to be able to share the experience with my family and my friends, so my dad and I thought that it would be a good idea to come back home for my last year.”
For the Valdosta Wildcat coaches, players, and fans, his return was welcomed. The success that Hall has had throughout his career led him to be one of the most highly touted prep players in the nation. He has been named an Under Armour All-American, a Perfect Game All-American, and a USA Today All-American. He is the No. 4 rated recruit in the nation and has a high probability of being drafted in this year’s MLB Draft.
This level of national attention can create overwhelming pressure for an 18-year-old, yet Hall doesn’t seem to be phased by it.
“I’ve always had high expectations placed on me ever since I was a kid,” Hall said. “Playing for Chain Baseball, there were always scouts at the games to check us out. When I first got to high school, I had college scouts coming in my freshman year, and the professional scouts started coming in my junior year, but I try my best not to let them or anything else affect me. I just play the game. It’s the same game that I’ve been playing since I was 3 years old, so I just enjoy playing, and I don’t worry about all of the outside pressure while I’m on the field.”
Not only has he remained composed through all the success and accolades, but Hall has remained humble.
“It’s just a blessing to be able to do this, you know?” Hall said with a smile. “To be able to play the game that I love and to have a chance to play at the collegiate and potentially professional levels is just a dream come true for me.”
But Hall hasn’t been alone in this journey, nor is he the first to make it. The players who went before him helped him learn the ropes of college recruiting, and he was fortunate enough to be surrounded by other top-tier South Georgia talent.
“Guys like Tony Locey, who plays at UGA now; or Tyler Daughtry, who’s tearing it up for Florida State; or even Jake Fromm, who just signed to play football at UGA,” Hall said. “Those guys really helped me out and showed me what recruiting was like from their perspective, and it really helped me in my recruiting process as well.”
D.L. Hall’s success, however, has been met with some adversity. On his glove, he has the phrase “CS3” engraved. This engraving is a tribute to his friend Colton Shaw, a former Valdosta High baseball player and Hall’s close friend who was tragically killed by an errant throw into the Valdosta dugout in 2015. He also has “Coach Kenny” engraved, which represents his former travel baseball coach who passed away when Hall was 14 years old. Through these tragedies, Hall formed a resolve to work as hard and to play as well as he possibly can to honor their memories.
“Those guys meant a lot to me,” Hall said. “Colton was a close friend, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without Coach Kenny, so I try to make sure that I honor them in the best way I can.”
Hall signed with Florida State and plans to enroll once his senior season is over, which he hopes isn’t any time soon.
“It’s state championship or bust for us,” Hall said. “It would be awesome to be able to bring back a state championship to my hometown in my senior year.”
That short-term goal for the Valdosta Wildcats is a real possibility in front of them, but the journey for Valdosta’s own D.L. Hall is just beginning. With continued hard work, character, and support systems, his future in baseball can be bright. He could become only one of greats of South Georgia, but one of the greats of the game of baseball.
2017 Rawlings-Perfect Game 1st Team All-American
Southeast – All Region 1st Team
PG Underclass All Americans/All Regions
2015 Underclass High Honorable Mention
2016 Underclass 1st Team
No. 4 draft prospect according to PerfectGame.org (No. 1 in Georgia)
No. 4 BaseballAmerica.com (No. 1 in Georgia)
No. 9 draft prospect according to MLB.com (No. 1 in Georgia)
USA TODAY High School Sports All-USA Preseason Baseball Team
GHSA 2015 AAAAA State Champion with Houston County High School
Did You Know:
One of Hall’s greatest strengths is his natural athleticism, which manifests itself in his presence at the plate. Not only is Hall an incredible LHP, but his bat can present as much of a threat to opposing teams as his arm does. The Florida State University commit led Houston County on the mound in 2015 with a 6-1 record, ERA of 1.81, and 89 strikeouts in 58 innings, but he also led the team in batting with a .339 batting average, 40 hits, and 22 RBIs.
In the Game Magazine / South Georgia / April-May 2017
D.L. Hall / Valdosta High School
D.L. Hall: A Baseball Prodigy
Written by: Zack Pine
Photos by: Micki K Photography