Hattiesburg baseball trio signs to play at next levelBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – It was a day the Hattiesburg Tigers’ baseball program has been looking forward to for a while – 12 years, actually.
Seniors Joe Gray (Ole Miss), Dexter Jordan (Louisiana-Lafayette) and A.J. Stinson (Alabama State) signed their National Letters of Intent Thursday.
Hattiesburg coach Joe Hartfield said it has been 12 years since Hattiesburg High School has had a player sign Division I, and Thursday the school sent three to play baseball at the next level.
The three players go back farther than their high school playing days, too.
“There’s something about us three,” Jordan said. “We were the guys who always said let’s change the tradition around Hattiesburg. Let’s make Hattiesburg better, and that’s the type of players we are.”
Gray is a two-time Under Armour All-American, playing in the premier showcase in Chicago at Wrigley Field in the past two summers, and he’s been committed to the Rebels since before his junior season.
“Just being able to trust your body, trust your playing style and trust your career,” Gray said of the Ole Miss program. “Like for instances in my case, I have the draft, so if the draft doesn’t work out, if I go to college, I want to trust that I’ll get developed in three years while winning. College baseball is about winning, and I want to develop and win at the same time. I feel like I can do that at Ole Miss.
“No one knows what’s going to happen (with the draft). We’ll just have to soak it up the day it gets here. Take every day, day by day and get better. That’s something I do every day anyway. “
Gray is considered a potential high draft pick in the 2018 First-Year MLB Draft next summer, too. In September, BaseballAmerica.com said Gray was the 28th overall MLB prospect coming out of high school.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Gray said about either playing at Ole Miss or professionally. “Some nights I sit up and have to calm myself down about it because just thinking about something like that really gets you pumped up. Being able to have those opportunities as a high school kid, a lot of kids can’t do it. I guess that’s why I’m so happy about it. It’s rare.”
Gray is an outfielder at the next level, whether that’s college or professional.
Gray hit .477 with 34 RBI and seven home runs as a junior, and he was named PineBeltSPORTS Player of the Year after his sophomore campaign two seasons ago.
Jordan is a long-time Louisiana-Lafayette commit, and Thursday was just another step toward getting to campus.
“That’s a family,” Jordan said about Louisiana-Lafayette. “You want to go somewhere that you feel comfortable. When I was on the visit, everything about it was comfortable.”
When Jordan took his visit, he returned with an offer he couldn’t refuse. He went home and talked to family, but ultimately made his decision quickly.
Jordan plays just about every position for the Tigers, mostly third base, left field and pitcher, though, and it’s still up in the air where he’ll find himself in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ program. He said he can play second, third or outfield at the next level.
“When I go in next fall, I’ll work at every position like I’ve been doing,” Jordan said. “Hopefully, I’ll find a position for me.”
Jordan rejoined the Hattiesburg football team after not playing his junior season, and it was something the Louisiana-Lafayette coaches encouraged, Jordan said after the Long Beach game last month. His stellar play so far as a senior caught the eyes of college coaches, too. He received a scholarship offer to Pearl River Community College last month.
So, what’s it going to take to get him to hang up his baseball spikes for the gridiron?
“Baseball is my priority,” he said. “I (played football this year) because I really love it and I didn’t want to miss it in high school. Football is still in my heart, no matter what. I sit down and watch it Sunday and Monday, but I really want to go play baseball in college at the next level.”
Jordan was .398 with 31 RBI and four home runs from the plate, and as the ace of the pitching staff, he combined a 6-3 record and 66 strikeouts in 59 innings with a 3.08 ERA.
Stinson’s recruitment wasn’t locked up early like his two teammates, but instead, he committed to the Alabama State program two weeks prior to Thursday. Stinson said his choice was the best fit for him, though.
“It was beneficial to my parents and me,” he said. “They have a great program, and they let the team act like they always act.”
He spent the last couple of months traveling and visiting schools, and he said it was very stressful trying to figure out which schools were going to make an offer or if he should stay with the schools that have already offered him.
Stinson, who has a fastball that hits 90 mph, is going to Alabama State as a two-way player, too.
“They like that a lot, so they gave me an opportunity to play both,” he said. “I want to pitch, I want to hit, I want to do all of that.”
Stinson hit .319 with 19 RBI from the plate, and he was 7-5 as a pitcher with 46 strikeouts in 41.1 innings.