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Jo Adell Works To Turn Dreams Into Reality

Scott Adell still remembers the first moment he realized his son Jo was a little bit different.

It was around 10 years ago. Scott was at a business meeting in New Jersey and Jo was about 8 years old at the time. Jo’s mother, Nicole, was with him at one of the surrounding Little League fields.

“You know, the little boy fields,” Scott said. “I don’t know what that’s called, Pee Wee or whatever. And it had a fence. And I guess that fence was 150 feet, it was a small, little fence.”

Small to someone like Scott, maybe. After all, he had been an offensive lineman for North Carolina State. The New Orleans Saints took him in the 12th round of the 1992 NFL Draft, and he was used to “just getting smacked upside the head” by extremely large defensive players in college and the NFL.

A simple, 150-foot fence wasn’t much to Scott Adell. To an 8-year-old Jo, though, it was a pretty big deal. But it wasn’t more than he could handle.

“I remember I had to excuse myself from the meeting because it was Jo on the other line,” Scott said. “(He had) just hit one out. And this is coach-pitch. And Nicole gets on the phone and tells me that they’ve never seen an 8-year-old hit one out of the park before.

“He hit one not only out of the park, but into the road. And so at that point I knew that this kid wanted to play baseball. I mean, I knew it from that point forward. There was no question that he wanted to play baseball.”

A few years after Jo conquered the 150-foot fence, he still had that mindset. Baseball was his focus. Even with his father’s history with football, with different middle school and high school coaches beckoning him to other sports thanks to his burgeoning athleticism, Jo was always drawn back to the diamond.

“He always gravitated back to wanting to play baseball,” Scott said. “Just getting out in the dirt and getting after it.”

It was only after a call from Steve Bernhardt during Jo’s sophomore year that Scott truly began to realize what his son was capable of. Bernhardt, the executive vice president of Baseball Factory, was in charge of scouting, evaluating and selecting the rosters for the Under Armour All-America Game.

And Jo was getting invited.

“(That) was probably the most excited that I’ve ever been for Jo,” Scott said. “They were deciding they were going to be bringing a couple of underclassmen to the Under Armour in his first time going. . . . We didn’t even know that was a possibility. We didn’t have any clue that that was going to go on.

“And that’s the point where I made a mental note. That this kid has got something special, and if he keeps working he may really get some opportunities down the road.”

The Daily Grind

A typical day for Jo Adell during his senior year at Ballard High in Louisville goes something like this:

Wake up and go to class. After getting most of his classes out of the way during his freshman, sophomore and junior years, math and English are his only classes—he’s a co-op student. He goes to school until 10 a.m. and then goes to work out with his strength coach, Eric Hammer. A normal workout is from around 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

He’ll grab something to eat during that time and then head to practice. If he has time, he’ll change clothes. If not, it’s straight to the field, where he meets up with some fellow co-ops to get some work in before practice.

“We’ll meet up at the field early,” Jo said. “Get some bands in, weighted balls, probably do a long-toss session before practice starts because we probably won’t have time during the practice schedule to do that.”

Practice comes and goes, and if he doesn’t get the swings he is looking for he stays and gets additional reps. The day is usually finished around 7 p.m., and then Jo repeats the entire process the following day.

Two things have hit home with Jo as he’s worked out with Hammer. The first? Everything that’s done in the weight room translates on the field later.

“Whether it’s some band work we might be doing, where we’re in whatever type of position, holding the band, that’s going to translate to x, y and z on the field,” Jo said. “And you can really feel it.”

The second? The importance of ensuring he gets into the weight room during the season. That’s been made easier with Jo’s smaller class load but would likely still be happening without it.

“He’s pretty driven right now,” Scott said, “to the point at times where I need to tell him to take a day off: ‘Dude, we’re not swinging today. You’re not going to work out. There’s not going to be anything. If you want to do something just go downstairs and stretch a little bit or something, but we’re not going to do a whole lot today. We’re going to rest for a day.’”

Resting isn’t how Jo became one of the most athletic and talented players in this year’s draft class, committed to be an outfielder/righthander at Louisville, but currently projected to go high in the first round as a position player. It’s not even what Scott himself taught Jo.

“(He) really taught me how to grind when it came to workouts and hitting, pitching, outfield—whatever it was,” Jo said. “And how to just put my head down and just go for it, and know that my dreams can be a reality. That was the biggest thing he taught me: If you want it, go out and get it.”

Athletes All Around

Bernhardt’s first impression of Jo Adell was the impression that most people have when they see him today.

“I guess it’s the natural (impression),” Bernhardt said. “Ultra athletic, quick-twitch. At the same time, pretty smooth in everything that he did. It seemed to come pretty easy to him.”

Except that it didn’t. Not really. Sure, Jo has the benefit of inheriting some NFL-caliber genes, but he’s not even the best athlete in his immediate family. That honor goes to his sister, who plays softball and track at Louisville.

“As crazy as it sounds, Jo is probably as good an athlete in any sport around, but his older sister Jessica is a monster,” Scott said. “She’s probably the most athletic person that’s ever been in this family.”

Jo points to how Jessica switched from playing softball to being a track star, seemingly with ease. Becoming an elite runner didn’t come so easily to Jo.

“It was extremely difficult, for a couple of reasons,” Jo said. “I used to not always be built the way I’m built. Lucky enough to be tall with lean muscle, and it wasn’t like that before. As a kid that was (5-foot-6), a little pudgy—couldn’t move the way he wanted to. And that was probably about four years ago really.”

His first 60-yard-dash was clocked in the 7.1-7.2 range as a 14-year-old. He wanted to get that time down, so he made a game out of it, tracking his progress and always trying to beat his last mark. At the same time, he was growing into his current 6-foot-3 frame and trying to adapt to his lengthening levers.

“It was tough to know how to work those long, moving parts at the same time,” Jo said. “And having to learn what the form is for that. How do you run like a guy that’s 6-foot-3? How do I gain the ground? And how do I be quick at the same time?”

Eventually, he figured it out, and his most recent 60 time was 6.19 seconds, timed at last year’s Perfect Game National showcase.

“He’s probably faster now, with all the work he’s done in the offseason,” Scott said. “But he’s doing it at about 210 pounds. So I’m really happy for him . . . (his training is) really showing some real dividends.”

On top of that, Jo’s 41-inch vertical leap would put him in the 98th percentile of the 1,706 players who participated in the NBA’s draft combine.

“I think he certainly belongs in that conversation of the best athletes in this class and very well may be the best one,” Bernhardt said. “Everything that he brings to the table he uses in game . . . Now the speed plays defensively and on the bases. He continues to get stronger and that’s in his power now. His entire game seems to have been elevated over the last eight-to-10 months.”

The draft is approaching quickly and so is the opportunity that Scott envisioned for his son back when Jo was invited to the Under Armour All-America Game. Back when he knew that Jo might turn into something special if he put in the work.

And he has been putting in the work. After all, Jo knows he can’t get by on pure natural ability. His sister Jessica is the only one in the family who can do that.

“Without that back-end work, you can’t carve that into that elite level, without that constant drive,” Scott said. “Jo’s got, my father used the term, a blue flame in his gut. It burns really hot because he really wants to be the best that he can be. And I know that sounds cliché, but when you’re chasing yourself, that’s a good place to be.

“When you’re trying to improve every day because you want to be better than you were yesterday—that’s the mindset of somebody who’s chasing greatness.”

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