With the rise of popularity in youth sports, everyone is trying to stay ahead of the game. Jackson County Comprehensive High School baseball Coach Tommy Fountain is in the process of building a strong youth baseball program that will not only give young athletes a chance to excel early in the sport but it was also allow those same athletes to stay within the Panther program.
“The ultimate goal is for JCJB to reach a superior level of play so that the top level young baseball players in Jackson County no longer have to travel to other places to play. To be the best baseball player you can be, you need to play the highest level of baseball at which you can compete,” stated Fountain.
The desire to have youth baseball program derived from parents who, last summer, approached Fountain and the booster club about the idea. Many of the parents have youngsters already competing in various baseball leagues but wanted to form a group of athletes that will have ties to the Panther name.
“After a few meetings and putting together a Board of Directors, the Jackson County Junior Baseball program was born. JCJB is a USSSA travel program that currently includes a 10U and 11U team. The teams were chosen after a series of tryouts; Steven Hardegree will coach the 11U team and Steve Beverly will coach the 10U team. Former Panther and current Oglethorpe University pitcher Kolin Zimmer also helps with the 10U team during his off season,” Fountain said.
One of the most prevalent issues among schools is trying to keep athletes within their program. Recruiting extends far beyond college scouts; student-athletes coming from middle school or some already in high school have coaches wanting their services, leaving those athletes with the option to play for a team. Unfortunately, it also leaves the projected recipient without the potential star athlete they hoped to have.
“Right now, I can name two or three very good young baseball players who are going to Gwinnett County and a couple even to East Cobb to play at a higher level. When the group of parents approached me with this idea, my mind immediately raced to those kids. When a kid plays in Jackson County, he should be able to stay in Jackson County. When a kid goes to Gwinnett County or East Cobb to play when they are young, we’re less likely to get them back,” Fountain said.
Fountain is confident that this program will have plenty for offer, especially those looking to play at the collegiate level.
“We’re putting a quality product on the field now, sending more kids to college than anybody else in this area over the past 2 or 3 years. We want our young guys who will play one day for us to go ahead and start doing things the Panther Way! While JCJB is a separate entity and has the ability to operate independently, the Board of Directors feels the same way we do,” Fountain stated.
In just a couple of weeks, Jackson County Junior Baseball will begin its inaugural season with “Both teams playing between 10-12 tournaments. The Panther High School and C-Team Baseball Program are actively involved in the development of these young men by running camps and coaching clinics, as well as offering 1-on-1 instruction from current Panther players.