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Mar 22, 2020

Braving the Storm

By: Jackson Sternberg

Note: The following appears in the April issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY by calling 864-656-2115.

When asked for a fun fact about himself, junior utility player Sam Hall replied that he loves thunderstorms and rain. While that may seem mundane, or, if anything, just a bit strange, that fact is drenched in irony.

During the fall of his sophomore year at Clemson, Hurricane Florence ripped through Hall’s hometown of Hampstead, N.C., where his family still lives. Hall’s sister was a senior in high school at the time, and his mother was a teacher at a local elementary school.

The threat of the storm was imminent, and the Halls knew their coastal town was going to get hit hard. Wilmington, N.C., which is a 20-minute drive from Hampstead, was in the eye of the storm’s path.

“My mom and my sister drove down here to stay with me and get out of it. My stepdad and my grandpa stayed back at the house to hold down the fort.”

The reason they believed it was necessary to have some people stay back and “hold down the fort” was because so much of what was going to happen was unpredictable and unprecedented, and it was that exact unknown that was so worrisome.

“It was scary because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” admitted #5. “You have no idea what it is going to look like after the fact.”

Hampstead is very close to the intracoastal waterway, so flooding was a serious concern, as a hurricane of any magnitude is incredibly hard to prepare for. This was a reality the Hall family was aware of.

“No town is built for the eye of a hurricane to go right through it with 100-mph winds like we experienced at the house.”

Thankfully, the Hall household did manage to hold up pretty well against the hurricane. A part of the gutter fell off and the garage had some slight flooding, but ultimately, “the fort” remained intact. Surrounding areas, however, were not so lucky.

“We were blessed to not be in the bad part of it, because on the island by the beach, that was the part of my town that was hit the worst. My mom’s school took a beating. Its gym had a hole in it. She was out of school for two months.”

His mother, of course, was safe and sound with her kids in Clemson. Due to the school’s closure, she had to be creative in making sure she was still teaching her students. Their breaks were cut short or done away with, and the faculty had to create new lesson plans.

Hall’s choice of words when describing his family as “blessed” is not accidental.

“Faith is the biggest part of my life, the backing of everything I do and everything I believe in. It is the foundational part of who I am as a person.”

That faith helped carry his family through this difficult experience and it continues to guide him as he progresses through life.

Despite the storm and the distance between them, Hall and the rest of his family with him in Clemson were able to keep in touch with those back in Hampstead braving the conditions. The house’s electricity and water both shut off, meaning they were unable to flush toilets or take a shower for a few days, but they did manage to reach out to the matriarch of the Hall family via text to confirm they were safe.

This was not the first experience the Halls had with a hurricane. Hall, who was born in Little Rock, Ark. and moved to Hampstead when he was six years old, recalled a storm he endured in elementary school. He did, however, note that the hurricane did not bring with it the winds that Hurricane Florence did.

The hurricane did allow for Hall to spend some extra time with his mother and sister, which he is thankful for, but the whole experience did not stop him from continuing his routine as a student-athlete.

“We had indoor practices. It was normal everyday life here, so that was pretty cool. It was nice to get away from all the hurricane stuff for a little while, because it was pretty scary thinking back on it. I had no idea what was going to happen to my house, my dog or anything like that.”

Baseball has a been a part of Hall’s life since before he can even remember.

“My mom would always tell stories that before I could even walk, I would stand up and throw a baseball to her.”

Naturally, getting back to something so fundamental to Hall’s essence served as a great distraction from what was happening back at home. Despite his knack for the game seemingly from his first breath, Hall made sure to note that his official career did not start until he turned three. Five years later, he was crowned champion of a North Carolina state home run derby.

A highly recruited prospect out of high school, Hall’s college decision ultimately came down to Clemson, Georgia Tech and NC State, but the choice was made easy from the moment he first visited Tigertown.

“I loved Clemson as soon as I got here. I knew this was where I wanted to go.”