ENTERPRISE, ALA. -- A mile down George Wallace Drive, a thoroughfare on the edge of this southeastern Alabama town centered with a statue of a vestal virgin holding up a boll weevil, Ed Scott and Warren Hughes are in the rough looking for diamonds. The rough is the manicured baseball field of Enterprise State Junior College. The men, both from Mobile, are major league scouts, and the potential diamonds they are watching in this game play for the Enterprise State Junior College Boll Weevils and the Faulkner State Junior College Sun Chiefs.

Scott, wearing a blue cap with a B on the front, sits in a lawn chair behind a fence near the first base dugout. He is in his mid-seventies and nearing retirement after 27 years of scouting for the Boston Red Sox. Scott covers the Southeast, from Georgia to Louisiana, and sends in reports to the Red Sox scouting office in Boston. He's come upon some gems, including Oil Can Boyd and George Scott, one a pitcher, the other a slugger.

From the front office in Boston, Eddie Kasko, the former big-league infielder who now oversees 26 Red Sox scouts, says that Ed Scott "is a hard worker, one of those scouts who goes into the backwoods to find players."

Warren Hughes, a Chicago White Sox scout, also knows his way around the country roads. He is in his late twenties, and might have made it to the bigs himself had he not been injured. Baseball will be his life and he has a winsome enthusiasm that's as worthy of cheering as any grand slam.

Rural junior college baseball in the peanut country of southeast Alabama is the minor league of the minor leagues. But this is baseball at its purest, where coaches, athletes and players come together in what Thomas Wolfe called "the whole weather of our lives." It's here that the players, most of them recruited as hotshots out of high school, first get a whiff of baseball as a business. Scott, Hughes and the other scouts are shoppers in the marketplace. Enterprise and Faulkner, teams in a league that includes Jeff Davis Junior College and Lurleen Wallace Junior College, are finishing schools Southern style: You're probably finished if you don't get noticed by the scouts.

This is baseball not seen in the stadiums of big cities. When scouts show up, an electricity is felt -- a kind that shorts out in the major leagues when too many millionaire athletes listen more to their agents than to their coaches. The victories here follow what Jimmy Cannon called "the defeat of awkwardness," a lofty enough goal at any age.

These are country boys mostly, likable kids with no guile. Two players on the Enterprise Boll Weevils are brothers from Slap Out, Ala. Both are talented, both know that the rosters of the major leagues run deep with small-town players.

They, and the rest of the team and the scouts too, remember Jerome Walton when he was a Boll Weevil during the 1985 and '86 seasons. He was a walk-on player from Newnan, Ga., who tried out for the team as a unrecruited scrub. The coach gave him a chance. After two seasons of home runs at Enterprise, Walton signed with the Chicago Cubs. He played two years in the minors and last year, at 24, was voted rookie of the year in the National League. Last Dec. 7 was Jerome Walton Day in Enterprise, an event the student newspaper, "The Weevil Eye," called "one of the biggest days {the college} has enjoyed in the quarter century of its existence."

Coaches relish the prospect of another Walton passing through, though the rewards of coaching are found in the less shiny joys. Tim Hulsey of Enterprise, a former Auburn University shortstop, sees himself as disciplinarian-father confessor to his boys as much as a developer of talent. It's the same for Faulkner's Wayne Larker, who played in the California Angels farm system and who grew up watching his father, Norm Larker, play pro ball, including six years in the majors. Both coaches played for Eddie Stanky, the legendary mentor at the University of South Alabama.

In the three-game series here in Enterprise, Hulsey and Larker took time to talk with scouts, fans and parents. They are men who put into practice the idea of Mark Marquess of Stanford University, who coached the 1988 U.S. Olympic baseball team: "A pro coach has to deal with his players' individual problems only if they relate to the business of playing baseball, on an adult and business basis. But with college players, you're closer to other facets of their lives, schoolwork and growing up... . You come across them years later, or they come back for a visit, and you see what they've become. That's the real reward, not just success on the field. That's the satisfaction all teachers get."

Scouts too and sometimes fans. At Enterprise State, the "whole weather" includes the whole place.

I was at Enterprise State to visit one of my sons, a Wilson High graduate in the District who pitches for the Boll Weevils. He had been telling me for a year that a junior college in rural Alabama not only is not the end of the educational world but can be a fresh and adventuresome world where lessons of life are to be learned in ways they can't be at the so-called prestigious academic warrens of wisdom in the East.

Having gone to college in Alabama myself -- Spring Hill in Mobile -- I knew the benefits of a cross-cultural education. I saw it again at Enterprise State. I have ties to Alabama that have remained strong for three decades. I think it will be that way for my boy. His teachers and coaches at Enterprise State, plus the local weekly newspaper editor who comes to every game, are as in touch with educational excellence as those at any pricey schools East and North.