By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Recent years for Tipton-Rosemark Academy Baseball has been prosperous.
Since 2009 under the watchful eye of Head Coach Brad Smith, the Rebels have played in several Sub-State rounds, visited two State Tournaments with a runner up and witnessed multiple TRA standouts sign scholarships to play college baseball.
Entering the 2012-13 school year, Rebel Jacob Johnson wanted to be the next in line. And with a senior campaign going 7-2 and being selected a Shelby County All-Star, Johnson attracted the attention of several area colleges.
On June 3 on the USA Stadium field in Millington, Johnson made his choice official by signing with Southwest Tennessee
“He did everything we asked him to do this year,” Smith said. “He came in and salitified some pitching holes that we had. I always felt like he had the potential. I just felt like he was lacking a little self-confidence. He got that and had a great year for us. I couldn’t have asked for him to do anything differently.”
Johnson saw limited time on the varsity hump in 2012 because of hurlers like JT Moody, Andrew Ralston and current Arkansas State pitcher David Owen.
“During the summer I started working really hard,” Johnson recalled. “I got all-tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. And after that I just started working really hard at home. I knew I had to step up and be a leader on the team. And I did that and had a really good season.
“I really didn’t think baseball was what I wanted to do,” he acknowledged. “During the summer playing on that traveling team, I started to focus a lot more on baseball and wanted to play college baseball.”
Johnson’s parents Jackie and Teri were on hand at USA Stadium to watch their son’s dream become reality. The little boy who started playing competitive baseball in the Bartlett area at the age of 10 was signing to play in college.
“For our son to be able to go to the next level and play college baseball means a lot,” Teri said. “We’re very excited for him and we’re excited to be here and to know we’ll be able to watch him on this field.”
Jackie said he knew since his son was 10 he had the talent to play college baseball. But it took that mental wake-up call in the Sunshine State to help him live up to that potential.
“He put in a lot work coming into this year,” he said. “He worked hard and he knew his abilities and what he needed to work on. And he did well.
“During the summer he knew he had to step up,” Jackie continued. “During the summer he pitched in Fort Myers, Fla., at the perfect game tournament. He made all-tournament. We knew then he flipped that switch and turned the corner.”
Jacob kept the positive momentum going into his last season for the Rebels. With his arm, bat and glove in the outfield, Johnson helped TRA take one of the top spots in league during the regular season.
“He very well could have been 9-0,” Smith noted. “He gave us a chance to win every time he stepped on the mound. He went deep in each game. What at asked him to do was five or six innings. And he did by competing in the zone. He just had a tremendous year for us.
“And his self confidence, I could just see it in his eyes,” he added. “He wanted the ball, he asked for the ball, he got the ball and did his job. I’m just tickled to death that he’s got this chance to experience the Shelby County All-Star Game. He was very deserving, three up and three down.”
Johnson said representing TRA one more time and displaying he belonged on the All-Star stage was memorable.
“Probably one of the best feelings I had in a while,” he said. “I was surprised to be honest that I got all of them out. Everybody is good on that roster and deserved to be in the All-Star Game. For me to get all three of them out was a really good things for me.”
Southwest Head Coach George Sykes said watching Johnson’s All-Star performance validated his scholarship offer.
“He comes out a very competitive high school program, and a staff I highly respect in this business and what they do,” he said. “Coach Smith and his staff do an outstanding job. And he’s a great fit for what we’re trying to do because of the basics.
“What the program has put into him, he’s a fit for us in our three categories of academic standards, baseball standards and of values,” Sykes added. “It’s a perfect fit for Salqui Baseball Nation.”
Smith said joining Salqui Baseball will give Johnson a chance to carry his talents to another level.
“He has a bright future if he keeps working hard and progressing like he has,” he said. “He’ll be OK and he’ll do good things at Southwest. And he’ll have a chance to play four-year ball after that.”
Johnson said that is his next goal but for now he’s happy to make his name the latest in this run of TRA Baseball success stories.
“It feels very good and I’m relieved that I can get signed on a college team just like David Owen and all of them,” he concluded. “I get to play college baseball.”