Gunner Higgins surrounded by coaches Mario Mesa, Chris Rojas, Stephen Walden, Robert Abalos, Jeb Bevens, Bob Park and Jeff Faunce.

When Gunner Higgins’ final baseball season at Safford High School was cut short in the spring, the center fielder was sad. He was chatting with Coach Robert Abalos about it when he decided to ask the question: “Do you think there’s any chance I could play in college?”

Abalos immediately started making some calls.

Higgins signed with Arizona Christian University Aug. 11. He left for Glendale Friday.

Had it not been for Abalos, Higgins said he would probably have headed back to his hometown of Amarillo, Texas and taken a job at a ranch.

Higgins, 18, moved to Safford with his parents, Ryan and Tessie, at the start of his freshman year.

His two older sisters still live in Texas.

He played baseball, football and basketball at Thatcher High School before transferring to SHS, where he felt more comfortable. He decided to focus all of his attention on his first love, baseball.

“I grew up wanting to play baseball,” he said. “I can remember finding a ball in the yard when I was little and trying to hit the same brick over and over.”

During his junior year, Higgins said he made All-State and had a .376 batting average. When school shut down last spring, his batting average was .332.

Abalos said Higgins was a “kid who always tried really hard to get the most out of himself.”

“We’re all really excited for him to play at the next level,” Abalos said.

School starts on Monday and the baseball team will start getting together for conditioning and strength training after Labor Day, Higgins said. He expects to be on the field around Oct. 1.

His long-term plan is to become a game warden as he really enjoys the outdoors, hunting and fishing.

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