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Former Football Standout Could Be Hit With Wild Things

By Staff | May 11, 2016

It’s quiz time.

What do wide receiver and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss, former Pittsburgh Pirates top prospect J.R. House, former Penn State and NFL running back Curt Warner and Wild Things infielder Justin Fox have in common?

Answer: Each was a winner of the Kennedy Award, which is given annually to the best high school football player in West Virginia.

Fox (5-10, 196) won the award in 2010 as a quarterback after leading Magnolia High School for a local comparison, Magnolia is about the same size as McGuffey to the Class AA state championship as a senior. Fox passed for 6,645 yards and 68 career touchdowns. With a 45-8 record as a starter, Fox is the winningest quarterback in West Virginia high school football history.

Though there aren’t many 5-10 quarterbacks in Division I college football, that didn’t stop Fox from thinking big while walking the halls of Magnolia, located in New Martinsville, a city of 5,000 along the Ohio River. However, the only Division I program that recruited Fox for football was Marshall.

“I probably could have gone anywhere in Division II, but I always wanted to play Division I,” Fox said after a recent Wild Things practice at Consol Energy Park as the team prepares for its May 13 season opener at Gateway.

So when West Virginia University offered him a spot on the baseball team Fox put away the cleats and shoulder pads. It was, after all, Division I and Fox had been the captain of the West Virginia Class AA all-state baseball team as a senior, when he batted .625.

“I had been on some recruiting trips and saw the size of those linemen. Those guys were 6-7 and 300 pounds,” Fox recalled. “I was thinking I’m going to get killed playing football. That had me thinking I’ll play baseball. This is the right sport for me.”

At WVU, Fox played second base and third base. His career got off to a slow start as he had only two hits in limited playing time as a freshman. By his junior year in 2014, after WVU transitioned from the Big East to the Big 12, Fox’s playing time and production increased. As a senior last year, Fox batted .273 with 13 doubles and a team-high 11 stolen bases.

“Going into my junior year, I worked with the strength coaches and that helped me develop more power, which led to more confidence,” Fox said.

That added power and confidence helped the speedy infielder land a spot in the Frontier League last year with the now-defunct Rockford Aviators. He went straight from college ball into the middle of a playoff race as Rockford finished third in the West Division before losing a one-game wild-card playoff to eventual league champion Traverse City. Fox played well in his pro debut, batting .264 with three home runs in 47 games.

Fox’s pro debut was solid enough to play another year in the Frontier League, but the problem would be finding a team to play for because the Aviators ceased operations at season’s end. That made all of their players free agents.

With his career suddenly in limbo, Fox received a phone call from Tony Buccilli, the Wild Things’ manager of team operations. Buccilli offered Fox a roster spot for spring training.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Fox admitted. “I was waiting for somebody to call me. Washington is ideal for me. It’s only 1 hours from New Martinsville. It’s easier to get here than it is to Morgantown.”

Fox is one of several multi-position infielders on the Wild Things’ roster. His best shot for playing time could be at second base, where Washington is looking for a replacement for Matt Ford, who did not return to the team.

“I’ll play anywhere,” Fox said. “I can play multiple positions, but I know if I’m going to get picked up (by an affiliated team) it probably will be as a second baseman. I’m not a brute who can play third base and hit 20 home runs.

“The biggest improvement I have to make is at the plate. I have to hit a little better. I have confidence in my glove. I’ll put my defense up against anybody.”