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Former Tide, Yankee player inspires FDA students

A former star Alabama baseball player and New York Yankee, Andy Phillips, came to Fort Dale Academy on Thursday morning to impart words of wisdom and encouragement.

Phillips played at the now-defunct Demopolis Academy as a youngster, and led with a story from when he, as an 8th grader, faced a charging Ft. Dale special team squad.

The team and school, according to Phillips, had been reinvigorated by the arrival of a new coach and a star athlete, the coach’s son.

In a playoff game against Fort Dale, Demopolis was winning the game heavily, so the coach put Phillips in to return a punt.

A much larger Ft. Dale defender hit Phillips, grabbing his facemask and slinging him to the ground.

Phillips said when he struggled to his feet, he was amazed to look up and see his whole team on the field, defending him.

“These were guys I really looked up to, the juniors and seniors and the star quarterback. All these great athletes were there and they had my back,” Phillips said.

“When I think about that moment, I always think what the team looked like in that moment.”

Over the course of the previous year, the new coach and his ‘star athlete’ son had drastically improved the morale and culture of the school, according to Phillips.

Phillips said he attributed these changes to the leadership of the new coach, and the confidence and willingness to treat everyone equally the son exhibited.

From that point forward, Phillips began modeling himself in the image of that attitude.

His sports career is now something that can be read about on Wikipedia.

Phillips set a bevy of records at Alabama, and he remains near the top in numerous offensive categories.

From there, he went to the Yankees, a team he says is the “best organization I have played for,” and later went to the Mets and the Cincinnati Reds before spending time playing professionally in Japan.

The big details are easily accessible, but Phillips spent last Thursday morning delving into more personal aspects of his life, including his strong faith and his lifelong effort to share it with team mates and friends.

Even in the lows of his life, Phillips has maintained faith.

When he went undrafted the summer of his senior year, Phillips said it was a result of his prayer of “I will go wherever you want me to go, God.”

A week later after the draft, Phillips received a call from his hard-partying college roommate who wanted to change.

“He said, ‘I’m tired of it,’ and I sat down with him and in that moment, he accepted Jesus,” Phillips said, “and 25 years later he’s not the same. What looked like disappointment for me, ended up being a life-changing moment for my best friend.”

Phillips had numerous similar stories, of inspiring others through patience and generosity.

“It’s amazing to know that all of us, no matter where you are or what the situation is, no matter what is going on at home or what decisions you have made, that God has an amazing plan for you,” Phillips told the students.