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Evan Chaffee making jump to Alabama, SEC baseball

Evan Chaffee Alabama baseball
Evan Chaffee's journey from Hamburg to becoming an Alabama baseball commit heavily involved Vanderbilt, an SEC rival of the Crimson Tide. (Credit: University of Alabama Athletics)

HAMBURG, N.Y. (BVM) — If a high school athlete commits to play Division I sports from Western New York, there are a few schools that immediately come to mind. However, a Buffalo-area baseball player going to the University of Alabama? That isn’t so typical. 

Neither is Evan Chaffee. Neither was his route to get to Alabama. It heavily involved Vanderbilt University, an SEC rival of Alabama’s, and West Palm Beach, Florida. 

“I was pitching at this camp at Vanderbilt,” Chaffee said. “I pitched pretty well. I was 14, maybe. My coach at the camp was really good friends with the coach for this really good travel team called the Elite Squad. So he connected me with this coach from Florida, West Palm Beach. I ended up playing with that Elite Squad team the following fall.”

Chaffee’s travel ball journey took him to the 2019 World Wood Bat Association’s Sophomore World Championship in Fort Myers, Florida. There he pitched in the Elite Squad 2022’s second game of pool play, pitching four innings that saw him surrender one run and one walk while striking out seven batters.

“I went to Fort Myers to play in a tournament for Elite Squad and I pitched pretty well there,” Chaffee said. “The coach for that team gave me the numbers of all the Alabama coaches and said they were interested. I started talking to them from there.”

So a coach at a Vanderbilt camp inadvertently led to Chaffee getting into contact with the Alabama coaching staff. Surely they must have tried to rectify their mistake?

“I talked to them for a little bit,” Chaffee said. “But they never really went after me as hard as Alabama did.”

Now Chaffee has finished his senior year with the Hamburg Bulldogs. They came just shy of winning the state championship, but Chaffee and his teammates made it further than any previous Hamburg team. 

“When you go on a run like that, you are spending a lot of time together,” Chaffee said. “You’re practicing four more weeks than every other team. So it was really special seeing all the guys come together… No matter what team you’re on, there are going to be some kids you don’t connect with immediately, but by the end of the year everyone was so together and that’s really special. 

“The run we went on, having it be the furthest Hamburg has ever went, obviously that’s pretty important too.”

Chaffee is getting ready to take the next step in his baseball career by joining the Crimson Tide come the fall. It’s not often that a Buffalo-area baseball player takes their talents to the Southeastern Conference, but here he is.

“Obviously I’m proud of myself for getting to this point,” Chaffee said. “When I look back on it in 10 years, maybe I’ll look at it differently. But now I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything until you’re actually there playing. I mean it’s really cool, and I’m obviously really excited to go, but I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet how big of a deal it is. … I don’t think it will ever really settle in, sink in until you’re in that first SEC series. But I’m starting to realize now the opportunity that I have in front of me, and I’m really excited to get to work. It’ll be fun.”

While Chaffee waits, he also has the opportunity to look back on high school and travel ball, the lessons learned, and the relationships forged.

“You don’t realize in the moment, but I’m already starting to miss it,” Chaffee said. “It’s the last time you are going to play with kids you are in class with and that live down the street. You take for granted the lessons you learn, playing with a group of guys. I played varsity baseball for five years, won a lot of games, lost a lot of games. You learn so many new things, some of it not even just baseball-related. It is crazy looking back on it, all the people I’ve met, all the lessons I’ve learned.”

While the two playing experiences were different, Chaffee enjoyed them in different ways, and perhaps travel ball will prepare him for the transition to college.

“They’re both great in their own ways,” Chaffee said. “High school baseball, you are playing with your friends, your buddies that you’ve been playing with forever since you were little. Kids that you go to school with and you see every day that live in the same neighborhood as you which makes that special in its own sense. 

“Travel baseball, you’re playing with kids from different sides of the country. Kids with different backgrounds. It’s really cool to see how in a short weekend, you can connect with so many people.”

Chaffee will undoubtedly get to meet new teammates from different areas when he steps on campus at the University of Alabama. When he does, he will have the experience of playing travel ball to help him.

However, Hamburg and Buffalo will never be too far away.

Plus, he’s got to make Vandy pay. 

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