Tide recruit rolls into Classic

Photo: Perfect Game

Blake Dowson
Published: Wednesday, August 3, 2016

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – There has been quite a bit of talk about a “dynasty” in the state of Alabama in the past seven or eight years.

That talk is centered around the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, of course, and for good reason. The Tide has won four national titles since Nick Saban took over as the head coach in 2007, winning three out of four from 2009-2012 and adding another one last season. Saban has coached to a record of 100-18 during his time in Tuscaloosa, the winningest coach in college football since his arrival.

While all of that Crimson Tide talk is good and well, if the conversation about dynasties in the state comes up, there is a high school with an enrollment just less than 1,000 kids in north-central Alabama that deserves to be mentioned.

Cullman High School has won four Alabama High School state baseball championships since 2002, and has appeared in four state finals since 2011, including the past three. The 2015 state championship Cullman team sent seven of its seniors to play in the college ranks, and the 2017 version of the Cullman Bearcats will feature at least four players heading to play Southeastern Conference baseball at either Alabama or Auburn.

The best of the bunch may well be Jacob Heatherly; a 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefthanded pitcher that was recently selected to play in the 14th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego on Aug. 14. Heatherly has committed to play baseball at Alabama, the same university that steals the dynasty argument away from his high school.

With Cullman being less than two hours north of Tuscaloosa, Heatherly grew up a Crimson Tide fan. It’s a dream come true for him to vow his commitment to Alabama.

“Since I was a little kid, I was a die-hard Alabama fan,” he said. “I really like the school and the atmosphere on campus. I had really high interest in going there, so it’s a dream come true.”

Heatherly, the No. 6 lefthander in the 2017 class, has soared up the Perfect Game prospect rankings in the past year. Heading into his junior season at Cullman, he was the No. 369 recruit in the nation. But after being named to the Top Prospect List at the PG National Showcase in Fort Myers this June, he leapfrogged all the way up to No. 46.

“[The National Showcase] was great. There was so much amazing talent there, it was crazy,” Heatherly said of his time in Fort Myers. “It was really fun to play against the best players in the country. The amount of scouts that were there was crazy, it was an unbelievable experience.

“I really learned to just be myself in front of the scouts there. I just tried to do my thing on the mound and really I did all that I could.”

Jacob’s dad, Stephen, said his son has always been a pretty good baseball player, but it hasn’t been until the last couple of years that he realized he could be a special lefty on the mound.

“I knew he was good when he was a little kid, you could tell even when he was little,” he said. “But I didn’t know he was ever going to be this good until about two years ago. He plays basketball when he’s not doing things on the baseball field, but he loves baseball. I’ve been working with him throwing and catching since he was a little kid. All the boy knows is playing ball.”

Heatherly has been having success at Perfect Game events all summer, making it no coincidence he has jumped up in the class rankings. On top of being named to the top prospect list at the National Showcase, he was named to the All-Tournament Team at the 17u WWBA National Championship at LakePoint, one of the biggest tournaments of the summer that brings the top high school talent in the country together. From Perfect Game’s scouting notes at the 17u WWBA:

Heatherly has the build, and with slight mechanical adjustments could see a pair of above average secondary offerings to go with a fastball that will tick up in the future. He did well to get all three pitches over for strikes at points and generated a lot of weak contact when the ball was put in play over his five innings on the mound. He struck out seven batters with 11 total swings and misses.

His play at events like the National Showcase and 17u WWBA, along with a good showing at the Memorial Day at LakePoint event (where he was named to the All-Tournament team) earned him a spot on the East roster for the All-American Classic, and he could not be more ready to travel to San Diego.

“[When I found out] I was extremely excited,” Heatherly said. “I couldn’t even put words together. I didn’t know if I was going to get picked or not. [That call] was honestly just insane, there’s no other way to put it.”

Heatherly is looking forward to being on the mound during the Classic, and said he relishes the pressure that a situation like that brings. He will toe the rubber at Petco Park with a lot of baseball fans, scouts, and family members watching him, but he’s been through all of that before.

Seeing as he plays for that aforementioned Alabama powerhouse, Heatherly has pitched in his fair share of pressure situations in state tournament and state title games. That experience is invaluable, he said, and he will use it to his fullest advantage in San Diego.

“I like to be in those big situations. It’s not nerve-racking for me,” he said. “I’ve been there in high school. It’s more fun than anything.

“I’ve wanted to play in the All-American Classic my whole life. It’s a perfect time for me to go out there. For me, it’s just the start of what I want to do and become, so it’s going to be awesome.”

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