By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The child who grew up smiling on the ball fields of Tipton County stood in the Munford High School Cafeteria Nov. 19 grinning among friends, family, coaches and teammates.
Munford senior Jacob Sawyers was overjoyed seeing his dream become a reality signing a college scholarship to play baseball at Freed-Hardeman University.
Attending the ceremony for the multi-purpose Cougar were Munford Head Coach Jake Garbuzinski, FHU Skipper Jonathan Estes, members of the Memphis Tiger Youth Baseball organization and Sawyers’ parents Dawn and Jeff.
“I can’t say enough with the school and the Tiger organization helping us get to this point,” Jeff said. “We’re just ecstatic right now.
“Coach Estes was a big part of that,” he added. “When he escorted us around, everyone was saying ‘Hello Coach.’ It was a like a family. Everyone knew each other. So we feel it will be a great fit.”
Jacob can fit into many roles when he joins the FHU Lions. His current coach describes him as a leader off the field, solid outfielder, dependable infielder, good hitter and strong arm.
“Jacob is a very good player for us,” Garbuzinski said. “He’s a senior and a leader just like our other three seniors are Joe Fulcher, Dusty Baker and Gunner Vines. Jacob is going to be able to help us in a utility kind of way. He’s fighting for a spot in our rotation.
“And he’ll probably start in the outfield for us,” he continued. “If we need him to he can come into the infield and play first base for us. He’s a good player who I have no doubt will be a good player for Freed Hardeman.”
Sawyers becomes the fourth Cougar to sign during the early signing period since Coach Garbo joined the Cougars last fall.
“I’m happy he’s going to a school that not only cares about baseball and athletics, but they care about him becoming a man,” Garbuzinski said. “He’s going to get an overall type of education. I’m glad for him that he’ll get to be a part of that for the next four years and play some baseball.
“I hope it does the same thing for the Kyle Hindmans and the Wesley Bases last year,” he added. “It’s great and they’ve worked for this moment their entire lives. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. But they get this out of the way. They do the great ceremony for themselves and their parents. Then they get to concentrate on baseball. It has pushed Jacob to work hard because he’s a great young man.”
Dawn said her son is a great young man from the diamond to the classroom to the community.
“Very proud that all the hard work was worth it,” she said. “All the traveling and all the baseball lessons because baseball is going to help pay for college.
“We prayed about and made sure it was the right place and decision to make it,” Dawn added. “He’s a very kind person. He’s a loving person. He loves his family and he loves God.”
Jacob’s path to Freed-Hardeman started on the fields of Munford Dixie Youth at the age of 4. Then there were stops with the Munford Red Birds and Memphis Tigers.
“It feels great to know I’m going to play college baseball,” Jacob said. “It’s a dream — always been since I was a kid to go play on the next level. A lot of people helped me get this today.
“It’s a good Christian college,” he continued. “Everybody there is smart and right heads there. It has a good business program. I plan on being an accounting major.”
Sawyers is focusing on his long-term and near future.
“We plan on doing big things this year,” he said about the Cougars. “We plan on making strides and getting a lot further than we did last year. We’ve got a lot of talent this year and we’ve built a lot of chemistry. I feel like we’re going to do great things this year. State, no less.”
Sawyer helped the Cougars reach Regionals last season. Meanwhile his future school was enjoying success under Estes.
Estes led the Lions within one game of an NAIA Opening Round berth in 2014 after advancing deep into the program’s first ever AMC Conference Tournament. After dropping the opening game of the tournament, the Lions reeled off three consecutive wins while facing elimination before dropping their final game 4-2 to eighth ranked Missouri Baptist.
The Lions cracked the Top 25 in the first regular season poll and were ranked in all six regular season rankings. The Lions highest ranking came on April 3 after taking two of three games from No. 18 Bethel. The series win propelled the Lions into first place in the conference and No. 18 nationally.
Sawyers plans to keep the good times rolling at FHU. He plans to drive himself to the home of the Lions, but at the previous fields he called home, Jacob had some help getting there.
“My parents —picking me up from ball practice, taking me there,” he recalled. “They were making sure everything was all right. They kept me safe and away from those bad things.
“It’s a dream come true,” Jacob concluded. “It’s a big day in my life I was planning on having. Now it has come true.”
Jeff said Jacob’s signing day was a dream come true for many involved.
“He’s signing to Freed as a dual role player,” he said. “He’s going to be a hitter and a pitcher. He likes all aspects of it. He can infield/outfield. He’s a hitter. He’s a pitcher. He’s real good at everything.
“Jacob is the type of kid that will go on a weekend and play 5 or 6 tournament games and come home and go out in the back yard and play Whipple ball,” Jeff concluded, “or want to throw with somebody. He truly loves the game. He nickname was Smiley because when he was out there on the mound he was always smiling.”