March 16 was a strange day for Devin Warner, but it just might have been one of the most significant days of his life.
On that day, the Cartersville High graduate found out the remainder of his baseball season at Grayson College was canceled. Instead of moping, Warner picked up the phone and called Billy Williams. Minutes before, Warner had done an in-person interview with Williams for a job on his horse ranch in Aubrey, Texas.
“I told him, if baseball season kept going, I could start late May,” Warner recalled saying during the interview. “He said, if I could start right now, I could get the job. If not, I probably wouldn’t have the job, so I left and thought, ‘Well, I don’t think I got it.’
“On the way home, the season got canceled, so I called Billy and told him I could start. He said, ‘All right, I’ll see you tomorrow.’”
That night, Warner, 20, packed some clothes for the rest of the week. The next day, he drove about 50 miles from his apartment in Sherman to the ranch, where he has on-site housing, to begin learning how to properly groom and train show horses.
It was a whirlwind couple of days, and Warner admitted it took a week or so to get acclimated. Since then, though, he’s gotten the hang of ranch life.
Warner grew up on a farm in Euharlee with three horses. Williams’ operation is a big step up. The ranch, which sits about 50 miles north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, currently houses roughly 70 horses, about 25 of which Warner looks after.
It’s an ideal place for Warner to work, considering he wants to one day own a ranch.
“I love it,” Warner said. “It’s only getting better, too. I’m just getting more comfortable.”
He added, “This is the perfect situation of what I’ve always wanted. It’s in Texas. I know people around me. My sister also just moved out here. It’s perfect.”
As sweet as the setup is for Warner, he’s still certainly upset about missing out on a potentially stellar baseball season — individually and collectively.
Through 18 appearances, Warner was slashing .268/.414/.661 with five home runs, seven doubles, 16 RBIs and 18 runs scored. The switch-hitter even homered from both sides of the plate in a Leap Day game against Carl Albert State.
Meanwhile, Grayson was 16-3 on the year. The team had won eight of nine, while averaging more than 10 runs per game, when the COVID-19 outbreak forced the NJCAA to be postpone and eventually cancel the season.
“We were really good, and we were really hot,” Warner said. “The season ended at the wrong time.”
But while the coronavirus shattered the hopes of a deep postseason run for Grayson, the pieces fell perfectly into place for Warner to chase a different dream.
“Since he was a little boy, he’s always had a dream about being on a ranch and in Texas,” Warner’s mother, Lora, said. “He’s always kind of had that in his heart.”
Out on the ranch, Warner hasn’t had to worry too much about social distancing. Even if he didn’t enjoy the work, he would definitely prefer it to sitting at home in a quarantine.
Now, the only question is whether Warner enjoys his new job so much that he quits baseball and pursues the ranching life full time.
“I don’t really know right now,” he said about his future baseball plans. “I’m just going to let God handle that.
“I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now, so we’ll see what happens.”
Baseball has taken Warner on a wild journey since he graduated from Cartersville in 2018.
Just weeks after finishing his senior season as a state runner-up, he was selected in the 30th round of the MLB draft by Arizona. Warner opted not to sign with the Diamondbacks, and instead, he fulfilled his commitment to play collegiately at Auburn. After playing in 10 games during his freshman season with the Tigers, who did make it to the College World Series last summer, Warner opted to take the JUCO route, ending up at Grayson.
Depending on how his future turns out, Warner might look back on March 16 as the day his road to becoming a professional baseball player took an unexpected turn. Or it just might represent the first step towards a different lifelong goal.
“All the things that have happened, going from Auburn to Grayson to here, it’s really matured me,” Warner said. “I really believe that God puts you in the right place at the right time. Wherever you are is where you’re supposed to be. Looking back, I’m not bitter about anything. I really like everything that has happened to me in my life.”