It's always fun to look back on features we did on players and see how they develop, progress and reach their dreams.
One of our favorite stories over the last year was the recruiting saga of Aubrey Barnhart and how she let the Crimson Tide coaches know she was committing to Alabama which you can read about below in today's special Throwback Thursday edition.
And (SPOILER ALERT) you'll be reading more about Aubrey in regards to the 2021 Extra Elite 100 rankings that continue through Friday and then go into the 101-500 lists next week.
--- Brentt Eads, Extra Inning Softball
Extra Star Power: How 2021 Standout Aubrey Barnhart Committed to Alabama Takes the Cake!
Originally published Nov. 30, 2019
We’ve heard of recruits verballing to their college of choice in some clever and creative ways, but never “committing by cake.”
After taking her official visit to Alabama the weekend of September 27-29, Aubrey Barnhart, the talented junior catcher/corner infielder from Pleasant View, Tennessee, took two weeks before she let Patrick Murphy and the Crimson Tide coaches know of her decision.
Her tasty way of unveiling her decision was actually inspired by the coach himself.
“Coach Murphy did a speech at a Coaches Forum in Nashville not long ago,” Aubrey recalls, “and it was about how Alabama softball is like a home-made cake, not a store-bought cake, and the experience is personalized for the person.”
“When I committed, I made a home-made cake—a funfetti two-layered cake with red icing. I made sure I was so steady making the cake,” the athlete laughs, “as I spelled out my first name and made the “A” in the style of the Alabama’s.”
And that’s how Alabama got one of the top hitters in the country… by cake.
The Stressful Recruiting Process… & Starting Over Again
It was fun ending to what had been a long and wearying recruiting process. Aubrey had originally committed to, ironically, Alabama’s bitter rival Auburn when she was in the 8th grade.
“I definitely would say that I do think committing early was the wrong decision for me,” the lefty power hitter admits. “Everything looked big to me and I wanted to go to a school where I felt comfortable. I loved the town and atmosphere of Auburn, but felt I had rushed into the decision and wanted to have more of a look around.”
Aubrey told Mickey Dean and the Auburn staff in September that she wanted to re-open her recruiting and that “I wanted to start looking at all my options.”
In the end, it came down to two other SEC programs: Alabama and Texas A&M.
“After talking with my parents and evaluating the directions of the programs where I had an opportunity to play, I felt that Alabama and Texas A&M were my two best options,” Aubrey explains.
I am so happy to officially announce that I have commited to further my education at the University Of Alabama. So thankful for the Alabama coaching staff for giving me this opportunity at the best softball program in the country. Roll Tide!🅰️🐘 #team26 #RTR @UACoachMurphy pic.twitter.com/BVpye7oi14
I am so happy to officially announce that I have commited to further my education at the University Of Alabama. So thankful for the Alabama coaching staff for giving me this opportunity at the best softball program in the country. Roll Tide!🅰️🐘 #team26 #RTR @UACoachMurphy pic.twitter.com/BVpye7oi14— Aubrey (@BarnhartAubrey) October 20, 2019
“Both schools were amazing and I value the relationships that I have formed with both staffs. But when it came time to make a decision the culture at Alabama is like no other and I respect Coach Murphy’s philosophy on person-over-athlete so much. I am just so humbled by the opportunity to compete at the University of Alabama and know the impact it will have on me as both an athlete and young woman.”
Her fun official campus visit trip Tuscaloosa may have played into the decision, too.
Catcher Bailey Hemphill was her host and fellow recruit commits Jenna Lord and Kali Heivilin were hosted by pitcher Montana Fouts and infielder Skylar Wallace. The prospects got to meet with academic advisers and the athletic director as well as go to the school president’s mansion. Another highlight was attending the Alabama football game against Ole Miss.
“It was absolutely insane at the game!” Aubrey exclaims. “I love football—it’s a big thing for me—and it’s why I love the SEC too.”
The clincher, however, may have been doing karaoke in the Tide players’ apartment.
“Montana said that what sold me,” Aubrey laughs before getting serious. “The entire recruiting process has definitely been a roller coaster ride to say the least but, I’m positive God had a plan for all the craziness and I know Bama is the right place for me. It is such an honor to play for the University of Alabama.”
“Happy” at 5, Champion at 10, Seven National Titles To Date
Aubrey got into softball before she started kindergarten, thanks to the influence of her grandfather, Michael Williams, who coached the athlete’s mother, Alysen Williams, all through her career. He also made sure his granddaughter had equal exposure to the sport.
“My grandpa has been a part of my softball career all my life. He coached me and switched me to the left side when I was originally a righty.”
Aubrey’s first travel ball experience was with a team called the North Alabama Rockets. She says her strengths at that young age were her hustle and fearlessness.
“I would say I was good back then,” she remembers, “but the coach said I wasn’t good enough at third base so I played left field. I worked hard and dove for every ball. Generally, out in the outfield I was happy, but everyone is happy at 8U!”
The Rockets played a regional team, the Tennessee Mojo, quite frequently and their coach Brooks Cherry—who would turn out to be a major influence in the athlete’s life.
“You didn’t like Brooks if you didn’t play for him,” laughs his current star player who’s been with Cherry since she was eight-years-old, “because he would usually beat you.”
Cherry, who oversees the prestigious Mojo organization, today holds Aubrey close to his heart as a player he’s seen blossom over the years.
“Honesty, she’s one of the best,” he begins. “Aubrey is a leader on and off the field and I have had the pleasure of watching her learn and develop into one of the best players and kids in the 2021 class for the last eight-plus years.”
*** Scroll down to read more about Aubrey including how she plans in signing next September!