On a visit home this past weekend, Carson Bell spotted a few of his former Washington & Lee teammates milling about the football field and felt a sudden impulse to join them.
“I was almost ready to grab my cleats,” Bell said. “I forgot I don’t play football anymore.”
These days Bell is living in Harrisonburg, attending daily workouts with the James Madison University baseball team as well as his first college class, Writing and Rhetoric 103. He doesn’t need the latter to persuasively argue his case as Free Lance-Star male athlete of the year.
Bell embarked on his banner 2017–18 campaign last fall, passing for 1,834 yards and 18 touchdowns in guiding the Eagles to an 8–4 record and a first-round playoff victory.
In December, he traded handoffs for hook shots and proceeded to average a double-double (15 points and 10 rebounds) as W&L’s starting power forward in basketball.
And neither constitutes his best sport: baseball. While Bell’s pitching numbers were hampered by an elbow injury sustained on the hardwood, he still impressed at the plate as a senior. Bell’s .471 batting average and 22 RBIs earned him first team All-Area and Class 1 state player of the year honors.
“There’s three-sport lettermen everywhere, but he’s a three-sport MVP,” Washington & Lee athletic director Malcolm Lewis said. “That’s rare.”
It probably didn’t hurt that Lewis is Bell’s uncle. For the last four years, he’s fulfilled his nephew’s frequent late-night requests to open up the batting cage, gymnasium or the weight room.
“He’s just a gym rat kind of a kid,” Lewis said.
Different moments resonate from each season and sport. On the gridiron, Bell won’t soon forget how the Eagles rebounded from a 44-0 loss to Colonial Beach in both teams’ regular season finale to eke out a 15–14 victory against the same Drifters a week later.
“The mentality of that team was different than any I’d been on in a while,” he said. “People were saying how we shouldn’t even go out and play that [playoff] game, because we got beat so bad.”
During basketball season, Bell came of age on the hardwood—literally. He turned 18 on Jan. 23 and celebrated with his best game of the season, scoring 28 points in an overtime loss to eventual state champion Lancaster.
On the diamond, Bell relished an opportunity to watch teammates like his best friend, Garrett Oliff, fill the void left by his injury.
“When I had to play first base for a few weeks, seeing how the team rallied around me was great,” Bell said. “It didn’t really end how I wanted—we wanted a state championship—but I had a great time.”
Looking back on his time at W&L, Bell cites a recurring conversation with his parents. Out of concern for their son’s well-being, they’d ask if he wanted to pare down his athletic pursuits.
“And I never said, ‘Yes,’ ” Bell said.
Despite his various awards and accolades, Bell labored with a serenity seemingly reserved for small-town standouts. But those accomplishments will reverberate around Montross for years to come.
“His humility and quiet has kept him from being the absolute superstar he could’ve been,” Lewis said. “Make no mistake: he is a superstar in these halls.”