WHEELING - Late last week, Alex Stephens got the call he'd been waiting for all his life - and he let it go to voicemail.
Being from an unknown number, the Linsly graduate didn't think anything of it until the next day. That's when he heard the voice of West Virginia assistant baseball coach Derek Matlock.
''It was shocking but Coach Matlock asked that I called him up as soon as I could,'' Stephens said. ''I called him immediately and we talked three more times that day. Then he wanted to know if I wanted to play baseball at West Virginia University and that they have a locker down here for me.
''That was all it took and I told him right then and there that I was ready to sign with WVU. This is an amazing opportunity and I don't want it to slip by.''
It was quite the twist and turn for the former Cadets shortstop, currently playing summer ball with the Huntington Hounds.
Stephens had initially checked out WVU and took a few visits when former coach Greg Van Zant was in charge. Stephens was intrigued by the possibility of playing for the Mountaineers, but he and the coaches grew apart and Stephens started to look elsewhere.
He had narrowed his choices to Wabash College in Indiana and Louisburg College in North Carolina.
''We stopped communicating and it wasn't working out for me,'' Stephens said. ''I really liked the other colleges and it was just a matter of me picking one and moving on.''
Then fate stepped in.
WVU athletics director Oliver Luck parted ways with Van Zant after 18 seasons and hired TCU assistant coach Randy Mazey.
One of the first calls made to Mazey upon his hiring was by Tim Adkins, a scout for the Chicago Cubs, and Jon Adkins, a scout for the Boston Red Sox.
They are close friends with Mazey and both are in charge of the Huntington Hounds.
''Tim and Jon have a lot of connections and they passed along a video of me and (the WVU coaches) liked it and wanted to get a hold of me,'' Stephens said.
Stephens became one of the first calls made by the new coaching staff and became the second verbal commit.
''Two things really sold me on them,'' Stephens said. ''No. 1 was recruiting. I was the second recruit and they said that I'm one of their guys. They made me feel wanted.
''The second was that they were all about giving everybody a fair shot. Whoever works the hardest is going to play.''
Stephens, who was recently named an All-Valley baseball captain for the second straight year, finished his Linsly career with a .533 batting average and a .967 slugging percentage. He led the Cadets in at-bats (92), runs scored (40), hits (49), doubles (12), and triples (34), while also driving in 34 runs and hitting six home runs. He also stole 33 bases.
He played shortstop for Coach Jay Cartwright and while he would like to remain there, he also said the coaching staff was putting an emphasis on him to try out at third base.
''I would love to play at short but I feel I am a smart enough player to play anywhere,'' Stephens said. ''(Third base is) on the same side of the infield, but its a completely different angle off the bat and it would take a little bit of practice but I am used to having that kind of responsibility.''
Stephens has already gotten a taste of what could be in store at the big-time collegiate level while playing with the Hounds. During a recent tournament, he batted more than .300 against pitchers that will be playing at Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Arkansas, Florida, and Indiana. Most of them threw in the 90s with the slowest being at 87 miles per hour.
The Big 12 is known for its rich baseball tradition so getting the offer is just the first step. It is going to take a lot more work from Stephens if he intends on helping the Mountaineers be successful in one of the top baseball conferences in the country.
''I plan on trying to improve on everything I can improve on,'' he said. ''I need to be a better hitter and a better fielder, get faster, get stronger. This is a dream come true and I have to make sure I give it everything I have.''