West Johnston High baseball coach Mike Jacobs didn’t want me to write about his decision to step away from high school baseball coaching in conjunction with the college decision announcements of six of his recently graduated players. It was a more than reasonable request. He wanted the focus on the kids.
The trouble was I couldn’t separate the two. So you’ll see the six Wildcats who will move on to play baseball in the college ranks highlighted below. They were a special group, winning a conference championship together for West in 2012, sharing the high school summer league championship last summer and notching those back-to-back American Legion Baseball junior division state titles in 2010 and 2011. Jacobs was there for it all, coaching the Wildcats from February to late July every year.
“This is a great senior class,” Jacobs said. “These six guys have all done something in the eyes of college recruiters and they’re great guys as well, just like our other seniors who graduated this season.
“I was blessed to coach this senior class.”
The West senior class isn’t unlike any other senior class in an athletic program. They’ve gone through the same growing pains together, achieved many of their goals together and dealt with the disappointment of a loss together.
“We just stayed together both in baseball and out doing whatever together,” said West’s Kessler Sorrell. “We were together all the time. We spent a lot of days working to make each other better.”
They’ll stay in touch but they’ll all open new chapters next season. Just like they dreamed about together on those long days and nights on the baseball diamond.
“We all knew we were going to be really talented, it was just a matter how we found our own places,” said pitcher and outfielder Justin Carroll. “We were all able to find schools that were interested in us and that we felt fit our personality. The only thing better is if we could have stayed together for college.”
Their coach will begin a new stage of his life as well, graduating from the high school coaching ranks to the dad coaching ranks.
“The stars aligned,” Jacobs said. “This is the perfect time for me to get out with my kids, Michael (8) and Jack (4) just really getting involved in athletics. I missed six rec games this spring of theirs and it killed me.
“I think about my dad coaching me in Little League in his U.S. Army uniform and I want to have that experience with my kids. I’ve sacrificed for 16 years coaching other people’s kids.
“I’m going out with a great senior class. I’ve been here for 11 years and enjoyed every minute of it.”
Jacobs will continue to coach girls golf at West for now but will work with the McGee’s Athletic Association coaching youth baseball. He’ll also oversee a youth fall baseball team with the help of former pro Derek Foote.
“Coaching is in my blood,” Jacobs said. “I’ll always be involved with athletics, now I’ll just be coaching younger kids.”
Jacobs came to West Johnston when the school opened after teaching at South Johnston for a year. He started his coaching career in Pitt County at Cox Middle School and Conley High School after graduation at East Carolina.
“I’ll remember the relationships most, not the wins and losses,” Jacobs said. “I’ve been to two weddings of former players and I hope to go to more one day. That’s what makes you proud, seeing former players, students succeed.”
Best: 919-524-8895 or firstname.lastname@example.org