Knocking it out of the park

Published 10:01 am Monday, August 6, 2018

The roots of the revitalization of Polk County’s baseball program may stretch to the living room of Billy Alm’s great-grandmother.

Baseball has always run strong in the soul of the Alm family — Billy’s mother, Mary, coached his T-ball team.

But it was in Eva Edelman’s home in Pine Plains, New York, where the heartbeat thumped loudest, where Billy heeded its call as closely as the words that Eva spoke.

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“Baseball was big in our town,” Billy says. “When I was 7 or 8, I started playing with the minor league teams and kids 9 and 10. It’s all I did growing up. At my great-grandmother’s, where we lived, the New York Yankees were always on TV or always on the radio. My whole family has always been big-time baseball fans.

“I played other sports growing up, like basketball and soccer. I got out of football because my great-grandmother asked me not to play, and she ran the house.”

Football’s loss has proven Polk County’s gain.

Wolverine baseball wasn’t broken when Billy became Polk County’s coach prior to the 2017 season; veteran head coach Ty Stott won 262 games and five conference championships in his 21 seasons. But the Wolverines hadn’t had a winning campaign since 2013 prior to a remarkable 2018, in which Polk finished 20-4-1 and won a Western Highlands Conference championship, reaching the third round of the state 1A playoffs before suffering a heartbreaking 2-1 setback to Lincoln Charter in extra innings.

The Wolverines set or tied some 30 school records during a season that validated the approach Billy has brought to the program.

“The first thing we go by is that you give respect to get respect. That’s first and foremost,” he says. “As coaches, we need to be leaders. We show kids that we work hard, they’ll follow us and follow our philosophy.

“As far as baseball, we just want to be aggressive. Given where we start with the athletes, you take them when you get them and teach them to be aggressive with the talent they have and to work hard.”

Billy speaks from experience. He worked to become an all-state standout at Pine Plains High, leading to a college career that began at Schenectady County Community College, where he was the team’s top player as well as one of 23 national junior college players selected to represent the U.S. in a series with China.

The international competition provided Billy an awakening that sparked his eventual interest in coaching.

“Playing with the JUCO USA team, I found out that right-handers throwing 91 miles per hour were a dime a dozen,” Billy says. “I saw that I wasn’t going to be a major leaguer, and probably only had two years of baseball left.”

Billy spent those two seasons at South Carolina’s Newberry College, where he earned team MVP honors his senior season, began preparing for a coaching future and met a standout on the girls basketball team, Brandy Carland, whom he would later marry. Billy landed his first teaching and coaching job at Apple Valley Middle School in Hendersonville before coming to Polk County.

The indoor batting facility rising behind the left-field fence at The Bottoms, Polk County’s baseball field, is testament to the long-range vision that Billy has for Wolverine baseball, as well as his plan to wear Polk County blue for years to come.

“Obviously, the more success we have, we’re going to get more kids interested at a younger age, which will be good for the growth of the program,” Billy says. “The more interest, the better the program is going to be and the more help we’ll get in building the program. The more involvement we get from the county, the nicer the facilities we’re going to get.

“Rec league baseball is not where it needs to be here right now. We do have several travel ball teams that parents have started. We’re trying to do anything we can to develop interest in kids at a younger age.” •

Andy Rhinehart is the force behind and, and is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in daily and non-daily newspapers. He is also a customer success manager at