Waubonsie Valley’s Jarron Thompson, an MLB prospect, gets ready to make his pitch. ‘Embrace it and enjoy it.’
Ever since he knew it was a distinct possibility, Waubonsie Valley senior Jarron Thompson has had goals that were pretty crystal clear. Somehow, some way, it would happen.
He was going to find a way to be paid to pitch.
“I always told my parents in middle school,” Thompson said. “I never mentioned college until I got my first offer. I wanted to play professional baseball, to pitch in the majors.
“I completely forgot about college — that I have to go through that level.”
Initially, Thompson committed to Missouri. With an eye on a quicker path to professional baseball, he then switched to Seminole State, a junior college in Florida.
That would allow him to be eligible for the MLB draft after one season in college as opposed to three if he went the Division I route.
“I wanted more playing time going to junior college,” Thompson said. “It’s a nice guarantee that I will start freshman year. That’s a great opportunity for somebody like myself — more playing time, showing off my skill set, and I’m looking to get drafted.”
If he has his way, the draft will come calling sooner, perhaps in July.
“I would like to get drafted this summer,” Thompson said. “It all started when I knew there was a top league.”
Thompson kicked things off Wednesday by pitching three scoreless innings in a 2-0 win over Machesney Park Harlem. He struck out five and walked two, hitting 92 mph with his fastball.
“I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be all there,” Thompson said. “I was a little jittery, amped up. Going into the season, I’m hoping to dominate every game.”
That confidence and determination is something Waubonsie coach Bryan Acevedo has been hoping to see.
While the physical attributes have always been there for Thompson, the growth off the mound has impressed his coach.
“He’s matured quite a bit,” Acevedo said. “His demeanor on the field has changed for the better. Sophomore year, he was almost scared. He had electric stuff, but he couldn’t really control it.
“Last season, he gave us an opportunity to compete and went deeper into games. He took more of a leadership role and started owning some stuff.”
Acevedo said that has grown even more heading into this season.
Thompson realizes he will have eyes on him, including a scout from the St. Louis Cardinals who was on hand Wednesday, but he has the attitude of wanting the ball in big situations.
“I keep telling people, if he grows half as much as he did between sophomore and junior year, this year should be pretty darn special,” Acevedo said.
Thompson’s offseason work has pointed in that direction. A dedicated schedule of lifting weights and baseball activity, with only Sundays built in for rest, has led him to this point.
“I really just tried to be more mobile through my delivery,” Thompson said. “That’s one of the top things a pitcher can do. I’ve been perfecting my mechanics and also hitting the weight room.
“I’m looking to make some noise. I would like to get drafted this summer. I’m just thinking about going out and competing every time and showing my best stuff.”
Thompson said he has spoken to eight MLB teams so far in the process. If he continues to produce, that number figures to increase.
“Teams are telling my adviser they’re very interested,” Thompson said. “I have elite movement that will generate swings and misses. Everyone is intrigued with how loose and whippy I am with my arm speed.”
Acevedo also knows how unique this opportunity is as a coach.
“We’ve had some good ones before but he’s special,” Acevedo said. “He has some opportunities that not everyone gets. Embrace it and enjoy it.
“It’s a cool opportunity and he’s taking us on the ride with him.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.