May 10, 2014 11:35:46 PM
The passage of time can go two ways when you are trying to attract attention to land an opportunity to play a sport in college.
As college coaches sort through prospects and evaluate players, the process can be tedious, especially after an initial visit or a first tryout. But once coaches determine which players they want and the student-athletes decide if a school is the right fit, the process can pick up steam and be completed in a matter of hours.
Jake Hollis had a chance to experience both ends of the spectrum as he searched for the right place to go to school and play baseball. The New Hope High School senior catcher made sure he did everything he could to make the decision easier for University of Mobile baseball coach Mike Jacobs. When Jacobs finally made his decision to offer Hollis a spot in the program, it didn't take long for Hollis to accept.
"I knew I wasn't ready to be done (playing baseball) after high school," said Hollis, who on Friday celebrated his decision to attend Mobile on at a signing ceremony in the New Hope High library. "I didn't know if I was going to get an opportunity to play. Now that I have signed, it still hasn't set in, but I know I am not done with baseball, which is an awesome feeling. I get a chance to play baseball for four more years potentially, so I am looking forward to it."
New Hope High baseball coach Lee Boyd said Hollis' work ethic helped him realize his goal of playing baseball in college. He said Hollis has improved his defensive skills, his arm strength, and his hitting to get an opportunity to play for the Rams, who are a member of the NAIA's Southern States Athletic Conference. Mobile went 30-23 this past season. It had three senior catchers listed on the 2014 roster.
"He has improved drastically over the past two or three years," Boyd said. "He has done a good job of basically working. I know Jake wanted an opportunity to play. He plays on some travel teams and goes to different camps and places like that because he loves the game and baseball is a really big deal to him. I feel Mobile is going to get a hard worker who is going to work as hard as he can to put himself in the lineup and help their program."
Hollis has played an integral role in New Hope's march to a second-consecutive Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title. Through 29 games, Hollis is hitting .293 and is tied for sixth on the team with 24 hits. He also had four doubles and 12 RBIs. He also has played a key role in handling a pitching staff that has a 2.13 ERA and has helped the team win 26 of 29 games this season.
"I have put in a lot of work hitting in the cages at night," Hollis said. "Coach Boyd pushes us and has gotten us in better shape. Cage work and live ABs always helps."
Hollis said his arm slowly has improved from shoulder surgery he had two years ago. This season, he said his arm feels "stronger than it has been."
Hollis also credited former Heritage Academy and East Mississippi Community College standout Cole Vaughan for helping put him in touch with Mobile coach Mike Jacobs and the coaching staff. Hollis visited the Mobile campus, had a workout, and met the players on his initial visit. The coaches asked him to come back a week later, which he did. The coaches then told him they wanted to come watch him play, which they did April 22 to see him go 2-for-4 against Saltillo.
After that, Hollis said the coaches told him they would be in touch. Time moved slowly for Hollis the next week as he waited and wondered if he would receive a call. He didn't learn late in the evening that the Mobile coaches were there watching him. Looking back, he figured something was going on because he thought his father, Brian, was "acting weird" before the game because he told him make sure he played hard.
"The first visit I felt like I didn't pretty good," Hollis said. "After they asked me back for the second visit, I thought, 'Maybe I have a shot.' After the first visit, I knew I wanted to go to school there if I got the opportunity. I didn't hear from them for a while and I had almost lost all hope, but I got to where I wasn't expecting to play anywhere. Then they came to the Saltillo game and it gave me a little more hope, a little re-boost. Not long after it when they called. I stayed nervous, but I really wasn't sure what was going to happen."
Last week, the call came from the Mobile coaches informing him they had a spot for him on the team if he wanted to accept.
"I told him that is where I wanted to play," Hollis said. "I really like it down there, and I really liked the coaches."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.