Christian Hall listened to the question and smiled a small smile.

Is swinging the bat your favorite thing to do in baseball?

He answered the question, but it was really unnecessary. The smile gave it away.

"I've always been told that if I hit the ball, it will take me a long way," Hall said. "I've put a lot of hard work and dedication into hitting. It's gotten me to where I am today. I definitely plan on continuing that path."

Hall enters his second season at UAB as the leading returnee in batting average (.370), hits (70), home runs (11) and RBI (48). He played in 53 games last season with 50 starts. All appearances came as the team's designated hitter. He led the team in slugging percentage (.614) and on-base percentage (.443) and was top 10 in Conference USA in batting average (third), slugging percentage (seventh) and on-base percentage (eighth). He was a second-team All-C-USA selection last season and lone Blazer on this year's preseason all-conference team.

The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Calera native, who played his first two seasons at UT-Martin, looks to start building on those numbers on Friday when the Blazers begin the 2023 season at noon against Eastern Kentucky in the South Alabama Jaguar Classic.

Hall was an outfielder while at Calera High. He played right field and center field and also was a three-year starter in basketball. He was ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 2 high school outfielder as a senior.

That was, according to Hall, "about 30 pounds ago, before injury."

Hall tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder about 15 games into his senior season. He was playing right field at the time and still threw the runner out at third base. But, he knew quickly something was wrong.

"After that, it was just basically trying to get my arm back," Hall said. "I still don't have my arm back, honestly. My doctor, he told me that labrum is one of the toughest things to come back from, and it's true. It's a lot easier to come back from an elbow injury than it is a shoulder injury. It's just one of those things you have to continue to push through each day, no matter how tough it gets."

The timing was, obviously, far from ideal. Hall was receiving recruiting interest from colleges and attention from professional scouts.

"I honestly was scared," Hall said. "I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I knew the type of player I was. I had the potential of getting a (major league draft) call, whether it was late round or whatever the case may be. I knew I had a chance, at least. When I got injured, I thought all that vanished and went away. I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to attain those types of goals. It was one of those things I knew I had to focus and figure something out, basically."

He signed to play at UT-Martin, where he started in 62 games over two seasons. As a freshman, during a Covid-shortened season, he earned Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American honors after hitting .368 in 15 games. The following season, he hit .271 with nine doubles, nine home runs and 37 RBI in 47 games.

"When I was up there, I kind of looked at that with more of an academic standpoint than an athletic standpoint," said Hall, who is now working on play first base and designated hitter. "That's just kind of how it felt. I was more focused academically than I was athletically."

He decided to come home and play for Casey Dunn at UAB.

"I'm a winner. I love being around other winners and a winning culture," Hall said. "I just felt like being up there. There wasn't really a winning culture. When I got a chance to come here with Coach Dunn and Coach (Alan) Kunkel, meeting them, I knew they wanted to win. Just being around that really grabbed my attention."

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