Ever since Little League, Christian Helsel has dreamed of playing Division I college baseball and in the NCAA College World Series.
The Altoona Area High School senior moved closer to that goal Wednesday afternoon. With his parents, Mark and Dottie, witnessing, and with coaches and school officials looking on, Helsel signed a national letter-of-intent to attend the University of Mississippi next fall.
"My whole life I've dreamed of playing Division I baseball," Helsel said, "and Ole Miss fits that bill.
"They haven't been to Omaha [CWS] for awhile, and that's one of my goals. I've watched it on TV for years, and I'd love to play there."
Helsel originally committed to TCU, but when the Horned Frogs decided to move their athletic program to the Big East Conference, he decommitted and renewed his interest in Ole Miss.
"I wanted to go to Texas [TCU] because of the weather," he said, "so I thought it was best to decommit, and I started talking to Ole Miss again."
Helsel also drew interest from East Carolina, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, North Carolina and Auburn before committing to the Rebels.
The southern schools first saw him in the summer of 2010 while he was playing for the Mid-Atlantic Canes, a travel team similar to AAU programs.
Except for high school, most of Helsel's baseball has been played in other parts of the country, particularly the south.
"After the Logan Township Little League, I was all travel baseball," he said. "I was with the Altoona Curve Juniors, which evolved to the NorCal East and then to the Mid-Atlantic Canes.
"My dad was my coach through all of that and Dave Brisbin has been my hitting coach," Helsel said.
The elder Helsel and Brisbin started NorCal East, which later became the Mid-Atlantic Canes. The majority of the players are from Pennsylvania.
AAHS baseball coach Tom (Turtle) Smith noted that few high school players from this area have gone on to play Division I college ball.
"He's my first," Smith said. "It's been great so far. He was a starter as a 9th grader and we recognized early that he was not intimidated at that age.
"He's been great to coach for three years, and we're expecting big things from him this year ."
Helsel, 17, a 6-foot, 195-pound shortstop-pitcher for the Mountain Lions, has a .420 high school batting average and has been a three-time Altoona Mirror First Team All-Star.
"He's probably going to be a corner infielder at the next level," Smith said, "so, if we can get him some work at third, we'll try to do that.
"He's got a great work ethic."
Ole Miss has led the Southeast Conference in wins over the last 10 years, and, under head coach Mike Bianco, the Rebels have made nine post-season appearances. They've had 64 players drafted by major league teams in the last 11 seasons.
"We are excited to have Christian join us at Ole Miss," said assistant coach Carl Lafferty, who recruited Helsel. "He is a very talented offensive player, who will bring a great presence to the infield with his glove."
Helsel said he hopes to be an everyday player in college and concentrate on his hitting, rather than pitching.
"I feel like I'm on my way to being the best player I can be," he said, "butyou've always got to work on hitting. Playing in the SEC, I'll see some of the best pitching in the country and I'll need to get accustomed to that, which, hopefully, will help me become a professional baseball player someday."