BY NOAH GRIFFITH FOR THE OBSERVER
SMITHS STATION —
The McCraine family pulled into the driveway at their home in Smiths Station, Alabama, walked through the basketball-filled garage, up the stairs and past an orange and blue sign that reads: “Welcome to Auburn Country.”
They had just returned home from a long, summer day at Glenwood’s baseball tournament in Atlanta. On the way home, their younger son, Mason, got two life-changing calls. One was from Auburn University, and the other was from the University of Alabama.
His brother, Brandon, had committed to play baseball at Auburn University just two weeks ago, and now, in June 2022, both McCraine boys had verbally committed to play college baseball for the household’s favorite team: the Auburn Tigers.
“We were just trying to keep the wheels between the lines [on the way home],” said Scott McCraine, Brandon and Mason’s dad. “I’m still excited about it, but the shock is over. At first, in my mind I was like, ‘My kids are getting something better than I ever had and the life that a lot of people dream of.’ I hope and I pray that they realize that.”
Although they received offers around the same time, Brandon said the decisions to commit to Auburn were made individually. It just boiled down to the way Auburn treated them.
“[Auburn head coach Butch Thompson] just really got to know us — not really on a personal level, but attitude-wise,” Mason said. “Like, he came to our game at Southland (Academy). When he watched my bullpen, he was also seeing where I was mentally. He stood there for a good 30 minutes.”
Brandon echoed his brother’s statements.
“I was talking to Alabama for a good bit, and I went to their showcase, but they weren’t really as attentive as Auburn was,” Brandon explained. “That’s what made it feel like a better decision for me. Just the atmosphere and the coaches [are why I chose Auburn].”
But neither of the boys had even started their junior year at Glenwood High School yet. Brandon was a rising junior, and Mason was a rising sophomore. They were both being recruited as pitchers initially, but the boys haven’t even set their positions in stone yet.
Both contribute for Glenwood on both sides of the ball. Brandon is a right-handed pitcher, first baseman and has played shortstop to fill in for an injured player. Mason is a left-handed pitcher who has played all around the field, including first base and outfield. Both guys are consistent forces at the plate, according to Glenwood head coach Tim Fanning, but whether that will carry into college remains to be seen.
“I’m trying to be a two-way player, but [Thompson] mentioned to us that he’ll start watching our bats when we hit junior year because that’s when we need to be developing,” Mason said.
Considering all the uncertainty, Scott initially encouraged the boys to wait to commit until their senior years, but college coaches were persistent to the point where he didn’t feel like they had that option. Brandon got his first offer from UAB the summer before his sophomore year, and the brothers have been attending showcases all throughout high school.
Scott said his phone is “constantly buzzing” between college coaches contacting him and travel ball coaches recruiting his sons. Along with the pressure from coaches, they’ve dealt with negativity and people trying to bring them down.
Through all the noise, the family has learned some important lessons.
“As I get older, I learn to just sit back and be quiet and let them do their thing,” Scott said. “We don’t focus on negativity. You try to love everybody and live by ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ And that works out pretty good for you.”
Both boys are on their third Glenwood sport this school year. First, they made a run to the state championship in football, then Brandon hit a buzzer-beater to win the basketball state title and now they are 17-3 in baseball and look primed for more ring chasing.
The McCraines are embracing the success they’ve had on the field and court, but the boys aren’t letting their commitments take away from what’s in front of them.
“I mean, when I’m playing baseball and like, hanging out with friends, [being committed to Auburn] is not really something I think of,” Brandon said. “I just want my friends to see me as one of them and not someone that’s like … higher than them or better. I try to stay as humble about it as I can.”