Another Texas Flamethrower Hits The Draft Radar

Jenkins is an intriguing pop-up prospect

HENDERSON, TEXAS—Tyrell Jenkins has a unique outlook on the prospects of being selected highly in this year's draft. Baseball isn't his only option. Jenkins is one of the rare players that has an opportunity elsewhere should things not work out on the diamond.

Jenkins, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound athlete, didn't begin playing baseball until he was 10 and hasn't frequented the showcase circuit. He has cruised under the radar and went relatively unnoticed, until now.

Nowadays, the Henderson (Texas) High senior has scouts knocking on his door to watch his electric fastball and knee buckling, mid-70s curveball. Jenkins is a raw arm, but the ball comes out easy and he can run his fastball up to 94 mph.

"All of them have shown a big amount of interest," Jenkins said. "During basketball they really started contacting me. Last season after we were knocked out of the playoffs, my head coach said things would get a lot more hectic."

Jenkins also excels at football, basketball and track and field. He ran track as a freshman and sophomore, but was asked to run for the mile relay team at this year's district track meet. He agreed and, without a single training day, ran a quarter mile in 49.10 seconds as the anchor leg.

His life as a four-sport athlete was already more hectic than most as young athletes have recently showed a preference in specializing in one sport. But not Jenkins.

"A lot of the reason for playing four sports was to keep me busy and to use my God-given talent," he said. "Plus, I wanted to help everyone be successful and win games."

Jenkins has been successful at everything he's done as he was named all-district, all-region or all-state in most sports, which kept him very busy throughout his four years of high school.

Fork Ahead

Now, the aspects of his career path have gotten very busy and hectic. Along with the possibilities of being drafted this spring, Jenkins was offered and signed a dual scholarship to play both football and baseball at Baylor. But if the signs of scouts' radar guns and calls are any indication, he will have a very tough decision to make this summer.

"I haven't made up my mind yet and I'm going to wait and see how the situation unfolds for my family," Jenkins said. "There's not really a round or a pick where I'll say if I go here, then I'll turn pro. It's just what's in the best interest of my family."

Jenkins has seen interest from every major league franchise and is projected on some draft boards to be a first-round selection. There has been a major league scout in attendance every time he's pitched.

Coming into this season, he wasn't used to the surroundings of so many radar guns on every pitch and video cameras chronicling every minute detail of his delivery, release, reaction and behavior.

Now it's something the 17-year-old Jenkins has gotten used to.

"When they first came out, I was really nervous and I really didn't know what to do," he said. "But now I've gotten really used to it. It's like they're not even there anymore."

It has to be like old times for the lanky righthander because for years nobody saw him pitch or had even heard of him—not even in his own hometown—simply because he didn't play.

Jenkins began playing baseball when he was 10 years old and didn't make the all-star team of his summer league until he was 12.

But he broke into the varsity lineup three years later as a sophomore and now is in his third full season there, his second as the ace of the Lions' pitching rotation.

However, he hasn't played during the summer, other than as part of Henderson's high school summer team, and hasn't traveled nearly as much as many of the other amateur prospects.

Area Code Emergence

Last summer, Jenkins really made a name for himself when he tried out for and was named to the Texas team for the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif.

He was one of more than 500 juniors to try out in Houston—another 400 more tried out in Arlington—and was one of 25 players named to the team.

Jenkins says that's where he became a pitcher instead just another arm that throws hard.

"It was a great experience," he said. "We got to play in front of a bunch scouts and I learned how to pitch instead of just trying to blow the ball past everyone."

From there, his draft status has taken off. He's had visits and calls on a daily basis from every team and often pitches in front of 15-20 scouts each time he takes the mound.

When asked which team he prefers to be drafted by, Jenkins says it doesn't matter. Anywhere he goes will fulfill a childhood dream.

"It's every kids dream to get to play in the big leagues and get drafted," he said. "It's something you don't want to mess up."

And so he's taking steps to avoid any kind of slip-up, both on and off the field.

"I've gotten advice from others because I'm going to be on my own and I have to make my own decisions and there's going to be consequences to the things I do," he said. "So, I've got to make the most of my opportunity."

Henderson's head coach Sonny Simmons says it is Jenkins' work ethic and his "coachability" that makes the senior so successful. Jenkins, Simmons says, is the first one on the field at practice and the last one to leave.

Also, his willingness to adapt and change makes him a smart pitcher.

"I see him having success (professionally) because of three things: his hard work, his love for the game and his open-mindedness," Simmons said. "He has tons of athleticism and he's very easy to coach. He picks up on things quickly and he's got a really good understanding of the game.

"He's not hesitant to try other things instead of doing things his own way every time," he continued.

Come May, Jenkins may be trying something new in the form of being a professional baseball player.

"I feel ready," he said. "It's been really tiring, but I know it's all going towards something better in the end."

Hughes Ellis is the sports editor for the Henderson (Texas) Daily News.