All American Game | Story | 8/26/2020

Pride of Texas, PGAA Lawlar shines

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Jordan Lawlar (Perfect Game)

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has long been a breeding ground for top high school baseball talent with each new year producing a bin-busting crop of elite prep prospects. And even with all the challenges the spring and summer of 2020 have thrown his way, Jordan Lawlar has managed to rise to the top among the prized prospects who populate the metroplex’s class of 2021.

There is just really a lot to like about the affable Lawlar, who on Aug. 17 started his senior year at Jesuit Dallas College Prep School where he is receiving both in-person and virtual instruction. That’s about the best that can be hoped for with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the country.

The classwork provides a small slice of normalcy for Lawlar, an exceptional student who carries a 4.21 GPA and who has committed to academic and baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He’ll also enjoy another slice of normalcy next week when he’ll be given the opportunity to return to a baseball field on Perfect Game’s biggest stage of the summer.

Jordan Lawlar, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound elite shortstop prospect from Irving, Texas, is one of 54 class of 2021 standouts invited to the 18th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic, to be played Sept. 4 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. It’s practically a home game for Lawlar with Oklahoma City sitting only a 3-hour drive north of Irving.

A special talent by any measure, Lawlar will enter the three-day PGAAC experience as the No. 7-ranked overall prospect in the 2021 class and the No. 1-ranked shortstop prospect; he is ranked 1/1 in the state of Texas.

“It’s kind of a confirmation of all the hard work that I’ve been putting in off the field and kind of behind closed doors,” Lawlar told PG during telephone conversation early this week when asked about the PGAAC invite. “So it’s more of a confirmation of all the work I’ve put in, and it’s just exciting to be with my guys and play against that competition.”

Competition is what Lawlar feeds off of, and despite one major disruption in the spring, he was able to find his share of it over the last several months.

Jesuit Dallas was able to get its 2020 spring season started in late February and the Rangers got 12 games in (6-4-2) before things were shut-down by the pandemic. Lawlar was slashing .485/.561/.848  and leading the team in hits (16), doubles (5), triples (2), home runs (1), runs scored (13), RBI (13) and steals (4) when the season ended.

The unfortunate outcome was obviously disappointing for everyone involved and Lawlar shared that disappointment with his teammates. “It was just kind of heart-breaking and I’d say more for the seniors because they only got 12 games in and they were hoping for a big season,” he said. “But I’m happy we got in what we got in.”

Jesuit Dallas competes in Texas UIL Class 6A Region II District 9, the only private school in the league. They’re in there with the likes of Allen, Boyd, McKinney, Prosper and three high schools from Plano so there’s never a night off for the Rangers, even during a truncated season like 2020.

“We pretty much compete with the big-dogs in Dallas, just some of the bigger names that are known for their sports,” Lawlar said. “I’d say it’s been a fun experience at Jesuit with all the sports and we’re also able to get the academics going. It’s been good to have the competition on the baseball side and to have my friends and my buddies who are just good teammates.”

Lawlar was finally able to kick the summer season off in grand style when he attended the PG National Showcase held June 17-21 in Hoover, Ala. The experience was a special one, he said, especially because it was his first event since coming out of quarantine. It forced him to make some adjustments, going pretty much from zero to 100 mph while competing with his class’s other top guns.

And he performed well at the Hoover Met Complex, running a 6.45-second 60 while showing an elite skill-set in the field and at the plate. Lawlar’s play defensively was especially impressive with his scouting report noting that he has “smooth actions in the middle-infield, hands are very quick and clean at the ball” and that he “rounds the ball with maturity.” It concluded by saying Lawlar “plays defense in an easy comfort zone with an advanced inner clock.”

Lawlar has worked hard on this aspect of his game and he takes a lot of pride in his ability to take care of business out in the field.

“I really never take any pitches off and I think that can be attributed to some of the success I’ve had on the defensive side,” he said. “I’m always ready every single pitch and sometimes it gets hard when you’re standing out there in the heat in Georgia on that turf for 100 pitches. I’m just trying to stay ready and make the most of my abilities out there.”

The best part of the PG National experience for most of these highly touted prospects is getting back together with their friends from locales scattered around the country, guys they maybe haven’t seen for months.

They’ve grown up together while competing on the PG tournament and showcase circuit and they came to miss the personal contact they once enjoyed before sheltering at home became a way of life in March.

Lawlar plays his travel ball with the Dallas Tigers, a prominent program he first became involved with roughly nine years ago. He committed himself to the Tigers and they returned that commitment to him and he credits the coaches there for helping him become the well-rounded ballplayer and the young man that he is today, on and off the field.

He started with coach Coy Polk and then moved on to Tommy Hernandez and those two men, along with Chad Polk, have influenced his career from the beginning.

“Those three guys have been really influential on the baseball side of things; they’ve always taken care of me,” Lawlar said. “They pretty much taught me all of those fundamentals that I know today.”

After the PG National, Lawlar played in a combined 15 games with the Dallas Tigers-2021 Hernandez at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship in late July and at the PG 17u South World Series earlier this month.

He earned all-tournament recognition at both, going 17-for-40 (.425) with 10 of those hits (6 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs) going for extra bases; he also collected 11 walks, seven RBI, 16 runs and 12 stolen bases. His final slash-line was .425/.558/.825, good for a 1.383 OPS.

“I think I picked up where I left off from the high school season; it kind of stuck with me,” Lawlar said of the strong 15-game stretch. “I was just swinging at strikes and trying to do some damage.”

It could be said Lawlar’s PG career really took off in 2017 when he participated at the PG WWBA 14u National Championship and the PG 14u National Showcase. He performed so well at those events that he received an invitation to the 2nd annual PG 14u Baseball Select Festival in Fort Myers, Fla.

The Select Fest has proven to be an eye-opener for the young prospects fortunate enough to earn an invitation and Lawlar was no exception. He had made a name for himself at the PG 14u National but the Festival drove the point home.

“That was my first big event with everybody on that big stage,” he said. “It was fun to get to know everybody and get put in that atmosphere with the top-tier of 14u players at that time. It was really just fun to get to know them and to know what it feels like to be in that level of conversation.

“It’s been a dream of mine ever since that 14u (Select Fest) to make the (PGAA) Classic,” he added. “That’s been a goal and I’m just happy I’ve been able to get here. I’ve really improved since that 14u game.”

Lawlar is the son of Hope Lawlar and Jeff Reeves, and he has lived with his mom his entire life (Jeff Reeves formerly played in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks). He speaks glowingly of his mom and the guidance she’s provided him while growing up.

“My mom has taken care of me for as long as I can think of now,” Lawlar said. “She started me off in pretty much all of the sports and baseball – as well as basketball – I ended up sticking with a little longer. When I was younger she would always put balls on the tee for me and (teach) me how to work hard and how to end on a good one. It’s just kind of all these little lessons she’s taught me.”

One of those lessons learned was the value of a good education, and Lawlar has thrived in the academic arena with the same proficiency he has shown on a ballfield. His passion for baseball and academics was a big reason he jumped on head coach Tim Corbin’s scholarship offer at Vanderbilt, which is still the reigning NCAA D-I national champion.

While the school’s strong academic reputation was an important element in his choice, Lawlar also spoke of the relationships he’s already formed with the coaching staff, most notably Corbin and assistant coach Mike Baxter. He wanted to get a great education while also playing for a national championship program in the SEC, and he struck gold twice with his commitment to Vandy.

There is the very real possibility, of course, that Lawlar will never make it to Nashville – the results of the 2021 MLB June Amateur Draft will have something to say about that. But the draft isn’t something he’s going to concern himself with presently.

“Just right now, our (focus) is on Vanderbilt and just everything that Vanderbilt can provide,” Lawlar said. “Whenever that time comes, we may talk about it then but right now it’s just Vanderbilt and trying to keep getting better every day.”

Lawlar will never forget his baseball roots, learning the game while playing in a region of the country where many of the other top prep prospects have also learned the game. And, Lawlar said, the players aren’t shy about learning from each other because you just never know when you might pick something up that works well for you, too.

This is the 18th annual PG Classic and with Lawlar, Izaac Pacheco, Eric Hammond and Luke Heefner all being named to this year’s West Team roster, there have now been 91 Texas prep prospects invited to the PGAAC.

Pacheco is a shortstop/righthander from Friendswood (Texas) High School who has committed to Texas A&M and is ranked No.  27 nationally; Hammond is a righthander/infielder from Keller (Texas) HS who has committed to Southern California and is ranked No. 36; Heefner, a middle-infielder from Cedar Hill, is home-schooled, committed to Dallas Baptist and ranked No. 49.

“It’s definitely special and it’s just an honor to even be in the game; I’m excited to get out there and show off what I can do,” Lawlar said. “I’m friends with all of them … and Isaac, we were at the 14u Select Festival together, too. …

“There were a couple of Dallas guys there at that time and we’ve kind of built those relationships ever since we were kids. We’ve known each other’s names for a long time now, we just kind of hit it off and we’re friends.”

And come next week, this large group of 54 friends will get together in OKC.

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