A star was born, and his name is Colby Shelton

Tzali Nislick, Staff Reporter

On a chilly December day in Lithia, Florida, in 2002, a star was born. Stars can typically range anywhere from 4,000 to 80,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, they’re scorching hot — but not this one. Much like the weather that winter day, this star is cool. He’s cool under pressure, he’s cool at the plate and he may just be the coolest story of the 2023 Alabama baseball season. This star’s name is Colby Shelton. 

Never in head coach Brad Bohannon’s six-year tenure in Tuscaloosa has a freshman shone as bright as Shelton has.  

“I don’t know if we’ve had [a freshman] be this successful this soon, right out of the gate,” Bohannon said.  

The numbers that Shelton has put up are truly staggering. Coming out of his first home SEC series against No. 22 Kentucky, the Crimson Tide third baseman owns an absurd .329/.430/.793 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 23 RBIs in just 24 games.  

“Hitting, that’s just what I love to do,” Shelton said after the series finale against High Point University on Feb. 26.  

Well, he’s pretty good at it. That game, which resulted in an Alabama sweep, kicked off a Hank Aaron-esque six-game stretch in which the freshman defied all logic. In those six games, Shelton batted .455 with eight homers and 16 RBIs while slugging 1.591. Seven of those long balls came in a smaller four-game span, when he became the first Alabama player since 2009 to go yard in four consecutive contests. Not to mention, two of them were grand slams. His electric performance earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors. 

“You got Colby [Shelton] doing something that I’ve never seen before. … Colby Shelton is literally like a video game character right now,” shortstop Jim Jarvis said a day after Shelton accomplished the feat. Jarvis, a senior, is not the only veteran on the club whose attention has been captured. 

“He’s just a real mature guy for his age,” said graduate student and first baseman Drew Williamson. “He’s not looking at stats, he’s not worried about what they’re tweeting about him. He just comes out here everyday and puts in the same work everyday. He’s one of the most consistent guys on the team, so when you put that kind of work in, your mentality is just strong.” 

That’s Colby Shelton, the college baseball player, but let’s press rewind and take a look at what shaped him into who he is now. 

“Colby was somebody that anybody could watch play and have two or three at bats and say, ‘This guy’s got a pretty swing.’ He was an easy [evaluation] from that standpoint and once you got to know him as a kid, you could tell that he truly loves to play. He’s a great worker,” Bohannon said as he reflected on Shelton as a high school prospect.  

That translated into being ranked the No. 2 shortstop in Florida, according to Prep Baseball Report. Shelton was also named first team all-conference in his junior and senior seasons at Bloomingdale High School after slashing .405/.510/.708 and .382/.506/.735, respectively. It was no secret what he could do at the plate.  

Fast forward to March 16 as the Crimson Tide prepared to open league play on the road against the vaunted Florida Gators. It was a homecoming for Shelton, as many friends and family needed to travel just two hours north on I-75 to watch him play in Gainesville. The series was a real measuring stick for Alabama, which had beaten up on non-conference opponents to the tune of a 16-2 record, but the question remained whether it could hold its own in a loaded SEC. Shelton would have to battle against some of the best pitching in the country, while being under the pressure of it being in his home state. 

“I think he’s not human if there wasn’t some nerves and some excitement, but he didn’t show it,” Bohannon said after the series. 

Shelton recorded a hit in each of the last two games of the series, including his 11th round-tripper of the year in game two. Not only was it a no-doubter, his solo-shot gave the Crimson Tide the lead in the eighth inning. Cool, calm, collected. Perhaps he’s not human, after all.  

“I told him after the weekend, I was like, ‘Man I’m really proud of you because you carried yourself the exact same way in Gainesville as you do in every day in Tuscaloosa,’ and again that points to his maturity which I think has a real impact on the success that he’s having,” Bohannon said.  

Even while coming back to earth a bit since his torrid start to the season, Shelton still finds himself as one of the best players on his team and in the conference. He ranks sixth in the SEC in slugging percentage (.847) and third in home runs (11) as of March 23, while pacing Alabama in OPS (1.223), ranking second in RBIs (23) and third in hits (24). 

In a lineup loaded with talent and experience featuring Williamson and right fielder Andrew Pinckney, it can be difficult to stand out, particularly as a freshman. But Shelton has had no trouble acclimating to Division I college baseball, and he has the Crimson Tide squarely in the mix to reach an NCAA Regional in June.  

Much like the solar system revolves around the sun, baseball in Tuscaloosa has begun to revolve around its brightest star in Colby Shelton.