Image credit: (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
Wherever Jackson Jobe went this year, excitement followed.
As the centerpiece for Heritage Hall High, the 18-year-old helped lead his Oklahoma City team to playoffs, then to regionals and finally onto a state championship victory. Jobe had an incredible regular season, and then somehow found another gear in the final stretch.
As the Chargers’ starting shortstop, Jobe hit .469/.592/.927 in the heart of the lineup with seven home runs, five triples, 13 doubles, 21 walks, five strikeouts and 13 stolen bases in 32 games. On the mound, he went 9-0 with a 0.14 ERA and three complete games over 51.2 innings. Jobe walked five and struck out 122.
Those numbers led him not only to be named his team’s MVP, and then to become the third overall pick in the 2021 draft, selected by the Tigers, but the performance was also enough to help him win the Baseball America High School Player of the Year award.
“He obviously brings a lot of eyes and attention to our program, and we love having those special players come through who help us succeed and put championship banners on the wall and trophies in the cases,” Heritage Hall head coach Jordan Semore said. “That’s something you don’t find often, and Jackson was one of those guys who came in and completely turned things around for us.
“He was a guy we could really build around and put him in the middle of the lineup and let him do his thing, and with the (pitching) progression he had from junior to senior year, everything fell into place and was a special year for us because he had a guy like Jackson out there leading the way.”
Drafted as a pitcher, the young righthander’s focus only began to shift primarily to the mound last summer. Early this year, Jobe called himself a “late bloomer.” Not only did he add 12 inches and a lot of strength and size to his 6-foot-2 frame over the last five years, but he came into pitching much later than most of his peers.
In 2021, everything came together.
“I’m starting to bloom a little bit,” Jobe said. “It all came out of nowhere in the summer, and then I saw my potential. And I worked really hard and had a good year this year, but I still have a lot more room to grow as well. So the blooming is starting to happen, but we’re not quite there yet.”
That’s the thing that should have Tigers fans thrilled. Not only does their first-round pick have a fastball in the upper 90s, a big league-ready slider, a future plus changeup, a potentially above-average curveball and command to complement the package, he has much more left in the tank.
“He’s just an 18-year-old kid, that’s what’s so exciting about it,” Semore said. “He was a late bloomer and he’s hitting 99 miles an hour as an 18-year-old. With his body still having room to grow, the work ethic he puts in every single day, and with the right people around him, he’s going to put himself in a position where he can be really special at the next level; at the major league level.”
The conversations surrounding Jobe and his future completely shifted ahead of this season. After the shortened season last year, his breakout summer on the mound during the showcase circuit made him someone to keep an eye on. But if Jobe was in a pressure cooker, he only showed it by continually heating up all season and coming out of it with a masterpiece playoff performance.
“I had a lot more to prove this spring,” Jobe said. “So my first few starts were pretty nerve-wracking, but as it came down to it, I got more used to it. I wasn’t really worried about the people in the stands, I was more worried about the game.
“Towards the end of the year, the nerves were coming from the position we were in, whether it was regionals or the state tournament. That’s what got my nerves going the most towards the end. But that’s what makes it fun, and then obviously winning makes it even more fun.”
What Jobe considered nervous energy, his head coach found to be a palpable excitement.
“There was something different about the kid toward the end of the year when we were going into the playoffs, regionals and hitting the state tournament,” Semore said. “Not to say he didn’t have it turned on before, but there was another gear I didn’t know he had. It was so exciting to watch. It was those moments where when he came up to the plate, everybody in the stands was standing up and there were all eyes on Jackson.
“It’s always like that when he pitches, but to see that on both sides of the game for him, it was something different, and very special.”
Jobe was an extraordinary player to be around at the high school level, and yet everything he did seemed as though it was business as usual. He made the unfathomable believable, and he elevated the high school game to new heights, bringing everyone in his orbit along for the ride.
“We knew he was going to be the guy from the first pitch he made this season,” Semore said. “But in the regional tournament going into the state tournament, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a high school kid just pick up and absolutely, completely, succeed in everything he did. When he was at the plate, he was hitting 450-foot bombs. He was putting us in a position to run-rule teams that were very good, quality teams in the state of Oklahoma. When he pitched the ball, the other team knew it was going to be difficult to win the ballgame.
“Everything he did, he brought excitement to the game, on and off the field. And that moment in the regional tournament, to me, transcended him from a really great high school player to a guy who’s going to be really special at whatever level he achieves. It really put him into an atmosphere of a player who I haven’t seen at the high school level.”
The number of postseason accolades Jobe has accumulated would suggest that talent and success like his is not often seen among high schoolers, and that his exemplary season stood out among the crowd this year.
“It means a lot being able to represent my family and my school and the program and all the people who support me,” Jobe said. “It’s been a really fun year and I’m really thankful . . . It was a long season. We didn’t get to play last year and we thought we had a pretty good shot last year. We all came out and felt like we had something to prove, and we ended up proving it. There’s not much more you can ask for.”
As he continues to move forward beyond Heritage Hall, the High School Player of the Year understands that even foregoing his commitment to Mississippi would certainly not mean even the briefest of pauses in furthering his education.
“I’m excited to be able to learn more about the game and continue maturing as a person,” Jobe said. “This year I’ve learned a lot about not only pitching, but myself, and being able to come home after each game and being able to learn something from it.
“Baseball’s more fun than anything else I do, so I’m enjoying the ride and we’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things about the game, because I don’t think (learning) ever ends.”
With any search of Jobe’s name on the internet, it seems obvious just how much he’s learned about pitching because the results are undeniable. But throughout this season, what he learned about himself is what intrinsically motivates him, and why that’s going to be important as Jobe continues his journey on the field.
“I love the game and I love being able to get on the field every day,” he said. “I love working, I love playing, I love throwing, I love practicing, I love doing it all.
“Obviously there are some days where waking up at 6:00 a.m. isn’t fun, and there are days you’d rather go back to bed like everybody else, but that’s the mental side of it. You push through and know that if you skip a day, there’s someone out there who is not skipping that day. Things like that get me out of bed, being consistent with it and knowing that the progress I want isn’t going to happen overnight.”