SAN DIEGO – It wasn’t all that long ago – just three years, in fact – that a terrific two-sport athlete from the Jackson, Miss., area was eagerly awaiting his opportunity to perform at the 2018 Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park as a 17-year-old.
A top class of 2019 national prospect out of Carthage and a senior-to-be at Jackson Preparatory High School, outfielder Jerrion Ealy seemed destined to dazzle.
The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Ealy was fast and strong and projected as a possible first round pick in the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft after an impressive PG career that included a standout performance at the 2018 PG National Showcase at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. And he very well might have been a first-rounder had he not been pulled in another direction.
As much as Ealy loved and continues to love baseball, he was also a top prep running back prospect on the football field. He had committed to Ole Miss where the baseball and football coaching staffs told him they were glad to let him pursue both sports and now a junior in Oxford, he continues to do both.
This Sunday at Petco Park, scouts and fans will be getting a peak at what could possibly be a younger version of Jerrion Ealy, although without the buzz that surrounds a possible first round draft pick.
Yet another terrific two-sport athlete from the Jackson, Miss., area is eagerly awaiting his opportunity to perform at the 2021 Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park. It too comes on the heels of a standout performance at the PG National held in July at The Trop in St. Petersburg.
Dakota Jordan is a 6-foot, 225-pound 18-year-old outfielder/middle-infielder out of Canton who has started his senior year at Jackson Academy High School, a top rival of Ealy's Jackson Prep. Jordan is ranked the No. 45 national prospect in the class of 2022 (No. 2 Mississippi) and is joined at the Classic this weekend by fellow Mississippi preps outfielder Emaarion Boyd (Nos. 40/1, uncommitted) and catcher Ross Highfill (Nos. 47/3, Mississippi State).
There is at least one thing that these Mississippi PG All-Americans have in common and that’s speed. Ealy ran a 6.13-second 60 in 2018, while Jordan (6.44), Highfill (6.48) and Boyd (6.56) really picked it up and laid it down at The Trop in July.
Jordan is also a Mississippi State commit but what sets him apart is that he plans to play both baseball for head coach Chris Lemonis and running back for head coach Mike Leach once he arrives in Starkville next year. For those with short memories, please recall the Mississippi State Bulldogs under Lemonis are fresh off winning a College World Series NCAA Division I national championship in June.
“It’s going to be tough, you know, but I feel like I can get through it; take it day-by-day,” Jordan told PG when asked about the commitment to two sports and an academic workload that he’ll be trying to tackle at MSU. “I just want to go out there and be myself.”
Jordan was speaking from Cunningham Field at the University of San Diego’s Fowler Park during a PG All-American Classic practice session and short scrimmage Friday night. The 60 All-Americans had just got checked into the host hotel earlier in the day and this was their first opportunity to get out on a field together as a group since the PG National in July.
“When I first came out here I was like, ‘Wow.’ This facility, it’s pretty, it’s beautiful man,” Jordan said of Fowler Park, which makes one wonder what he’ll think when he walks out on the field at Petco Park for the first time Saturday morning. “I’m just blessed to be out here.”
He then took another look around; smiled broadly and said he really did feel at home: “I feel like I see the same faces every weekend for some reason. I feel like I live with these guys and I’m just happy to be out here. … Right now I feel like this is just a normal practice. I just want to come out here and compete, be myself and show my talents.”
Jordan has been rostered at 29 PG events since 2017 and after playing with the West Florida Baseball Academy (WFBA) in his early years he started playing for Tim Dulin and the Dulins Dodgers program when he was a ninth-grader. He stayed loyal to Dulin throughout his travel ball career and feels like he owes the veteran manager a debt of gratitude.
He’s learned so much during his time with the Dodgers and he’s grown into a top national prospect through the relationship. In 16 high level tournament games this summer Jordan slashed .324/.465/.588 with three doubles and two home runs counted among his 11 hits, to go with 11 RBI, nine runs and four stolen bases.
In his 65-game PG career, he’s posted a slash-line of .293/.411/.503 (49 hits) with eight doubles, six triples, five home runs and 14 stolen bases. There’s that speed and strength thing again.
“In football, coaches like to say I’m shifty but I can (also) turn into a power back,” Jordan said. “But if I get out into space and I can be real shifty.”
The one thing Jordan realizes he is going to have to become expert at in his attempt to pursue successful baseball, football and academic careers at Mississippi State is time management. It’s already an everyday thing for him, in fact, and when he returns home from his time here his days will be filled with a steady diet of classes, football, time in the batting cage and, finally, homework.
He said he communicates with both Lemonis and Leach on an almost daily basis and he feels like he’s got a great relationship with both of them. They’re supportive of his efforts to this point which will become all the more important once he gets on campus.
Ealy had his freshman baseball season in 2020 cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic and red-shirted last year after undergoing shoulder surgery. On the football field, he has shined as the Rebels top running back, earning third team All-America recognition in 2020. At 5-foot-9, 180-pounds he is considered one of the top running backs not just in the SEC but in the country.
“I grew up around Jerrion and I still look up to him like a big brother,” Jordan said. “I talked to him the other day and he’s just so locked in on football right now.”
School has already started at Jackson Academy and so has the football season. Coincidentally, the Raiders were playing their season-opener at the same time Jordan was at Fowler Park and the last time he had a chance to look they were leading at halftime, 8-0. His mind did seem to wander momentarily but then he was quickly back into the present.
“I’m really happy with where I’m at right now but at the same time I wish I was out there with my guys helping them win,” he said wistfully.
But on Sunday, Dakota Jordan will be doing everything he can do help the West Team win what would be its sixth straight Classic victory and its 9th in the last ten years. If the banter between the two dugouts during Friday night’s scrimmage offered any insight into the rivalry, Sunday’s game could be a spicy hot affair.
All 60 players are here because they earned the opportunity. They know to a man that this is an All-Star Game at its core but it’s also a baseball game where the score is being kept; these guys want to win.
“It was day-in, day-out in the baseball cages, practicing,” Jordan said. “It took a lot of hard work to get here. … I go into the (batters) box with confidence because I know what I can do.”