Prep Signing: Holmes follows' brothers' lead

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — Recent East Rowan graduate Roby Holmes is too young to have heard of Jesus Alou, but that should be his role model.
Jesus was a good baseball player in the 1960s, who was both blessed and cursed to follow behind his talented older brothers, Felipe and Matty.
Matty won the National League batting crown as a Pittsburg Pirate in 1966. Felipe, playing for the Atlanta Braves, was the runner-up.
In 1968, Matty and Felipe were both on the N.L. all-star squad. Tough acts to follow, but Jesus followed.
At 16, Jesus signed with the San Francisco Giants to chase the same dream his brothers had. That meant expectations every step of the way. After all, he was an Alou.
Roby Holmes is following two brothers, Trey and Noah, who were among the best baseball players Rowan has produced in the past decade.
As East’s version of Jesus Alou, Roby has learned a little bit about expectations.
“It hasn’t always been easy,” Roby said. “That’s because you’re always going to get compared.”
When East coach Brian Hightower saw Roby as a freshman, he shook his head. Trey was starting at Pitt Community College, while Noah was starring for the Mustangs. By comparison, the third Holmes had a long way to go.
“Freshman year, never thought Roby had any chance,” Hightower said.
That was 2009, and it was that summer that Trey, the first baseman, and Noah, the third baseman, keyed the Rowan Legion team’s drive to the World Series. The Holmes boys combined for 125 RBIs.
Trey, a tremendous athlete who starred in football and started in basketball at East, batted .455 that summer with 16 homers and broke program records for hits (96) and doubles (28).
In 2010, Roby played his second year on the East jayvees, while Noah batted .480 for the varsity.
In 2011, Noah and Trey were reunited as teammates at Appalachian State, while Roby finally made the East varsity. The backup at first base to Andy Austin, he made it to the plate 10 times and got two hits.
“I just tried to stay focused and keep working because there’s not really anything else you can do,” Roby said. “In the baseball area, I tried to do like Trey and Noah. I figured anything I could do like them wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
Roby’s left-handed swing was sweet, and he added confidence and muscle between his junior and senior years.
Hightower talked up the third Holmes prior to his senior season — and he delivered.
Austin still had first base taken care of, but Holmes accepted the role of DH.
While Trey and Noah were helping put Appalachian State back on the baseball map, Roby kept pace. He had a fine senior season, driving in 17 runs, second on the team.
He had key hits in wins over Carson and West Iredell that helped the Mustangs win another NPC championship and was named all-conference.
“Roby made himself into a player,” Hightower said. “He found his swing and came through with some clutch hits. There aren’t any better guys, so I was real proud of him.”
Roby’s career isn’t over. He’ll head next to Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, a program that just played in the Division II junior college World Series.
Roby will get a shot as the Bucs’ new first baseman.
“I got lucky that they saw me hit in the fall on one of those days that my swing was good,” Roby said with a laugh.
Roby works on hitting every day. He’s still got a ways to go — but he’s come so far.
Jesus Alou also went far.
There was a night in 1963 in which the three Alou brothers batted back-to-back-to-back for the Giants.
Five days after that, the Giants’ outfield, from left to right, was Matty, Felipe and Jesus. The Alous teamed for 5,094 big-league hits — a record for three siblings. Jesus produced 1,216 to inspire little brothers everywhere.
“Following two brothers as good as his could never have been an easy thing for Roby,” Hightower said. “But he’s never shied away from it.”