After going farther than any team before them by reaching the state regional tournament last season, there is no surprise that this years crop of incoming senior baseball players has also had the most success in signing on to play at the college level. Judd Hammons and Jon Vannoy were the most recent to make the jump, officially signing with Alice Lloyd College last week in the Johnson County High School Media Center.
Head Coach Jason Stowers made the long trip from Pippa Passes, Kentucky to personally welcome his two newest players to the team. Alice Lloyd College is very excited to be getting both Jon Vannoy and Judd Hammons, Stowers said. Both players are very good character kids and very good academically. They are exactly the kind of kids that our program strives to find. Both Jon and Judd should factor into the mix in their first seasons with Alice Lloyd. Hammons has the ability to play both spots in the middle infield and could slide over to second base if depth there becomes an issue. Vannoy is a newcomer to baseball but has tons of potential and raw skills that will translate well into the college game. He will add depth to the developing bullpen for the Eagles.
As Stowers highlighted, both players have widely varied backgrounds and have played very different roles in their high school careers, something both Head Coach Pete Pavusek and Assistant Coach Nicholas Perkins pointed out. Its a situation Ive never been in, Pavusek said. Im almost in the dark as much as anybody. Its kind of a strange situation, a good situation, but a strange one. Weve had several go on to college before, we had some good things going on, but never this many at once and were still working on it.
While both players have shown great talent on the field, Vannoys story in particular stands out, ironically not so much for what he has accomplished but for what he could accomplish in the future. Jon Vannoys not played any kind of varsity baseball, said Pavusek. Theyre calling based on size, strength and potential down the road, which might be a good thing. Does he have the ability; can he get it done? Yeah, I believe he can, but its just tough. You have to be determined. Its kind of an odd situation, but good for him. Im happy for him.
Having worked with both Vannoy and Hammons since they entered the program Coach Perkins went on to explain some of the reasons why Alice Lloyd made their decision. Jon joined our baseball program as a junior in the spring of 2012 and he has done nothing but improve since, Perkins said. I feel that he is one of the best stories in the country as far as a college signee. He didnt make our middle school club as a seventh or eighth grader and that really discouraged him so he didnt play his freshman or sophomore year. I feel like if we had had him all four years he would have been hands down one of our top players on the team. A 6-foot-6, tall, lanky frame is very impressive as a pitcher to a collegiate program because his ceiling is so high, and with his limited experience a collegiate coach can really just take him and grow him.
Rather than see Vannoys inexperience as a handicap all three coaches spoke very highly of the incoming pitchers potential. Coach Perkins probably summarized the situation the best, noting that; It makes him more intriguing because of his size and his potential. What can we tap into here that hasnt been tapped into, how much better can he get with repetition and experience, so yes I think his limited experience in that regard has made Jon more intriguing. He hit a homerun against Sullivan North as a JV player last year, he almost hit a varsity homerun against Cloudland, he has the first shot to be our starting varsity 3rd baseman, as well as to be our 2nd or 3rd starting pitcher on our varsity pitching staff. You couldnt have these opportunities without talent. The best of Jon Vannoy will be seen in Kentucky not here in Johnson County. Its been a pleasure to get to know him and I expect him to have a prominent role on our team this season.
Judd Hammons rise to prominence took a very different path than his teammates. Having played baseball in middle school, Hammons was quick to join the team in the ninth grade and right from the get-go, Coach Perkins could see the makings of a strong player. I knew Judd Hammons was a special player in the spring of 2010 when he was a freshman on our JV club, Perkins said. God has blessed him with athletic ability. He is a true shortstop; he has speed, agility, and a strong throwing arm. Hes an athlete, but what Im pleased with most in Judd is that he has grown into a true baseball player. His knowledge of the game, his knowledge of situational baseball, just the fundamental techniques of the game, he has just been a very good baseball player. I feel like I may coach another 20 or 30 years and not coach a shortstop as talented as he is. The sky is the limit for what he can accomplish in his collegiate career.
Hammons was an essential part of helping his team work their way into the regionals last year, earning himself an all-conference designation in the process. Yet, while Perkins worked hard to bring out the best in the young player as he came into the program, Hammons shorter stature and initial struggles left some, including Coach Pavusek, amazed at how far he has come.
Its just suprising, Pavusek said. I didnt really expect this. Its hard, Jon was a little easier, hes big, hes strong, hes got long arms long legs. The smaller kids that arent very tall seem to have to work harder for everything they get. Judds worked hard to get to where he is. He deserves it. Hes got the numbers, hes got the athletic ability.
Perkins, who has worked very closely with Hammons throughout his career, also mentioned some of the challenges ahead but voiced his confidence in the short stops ability to overcome. There have been times that I have been hard on Judd, Perkins said. Ive been hard on Judd because I always thought he could go on and accomplish bigger and better things after here. Ive pushed him but its always because I knew of his ability and what he could accomplish if he pushed himself. Hes went from a young man that didnt take academics seriously as a freshman, sophomore, to a young man whos GPA continues to go up and up the last two years. Judd Hammons could play at many, many schools. He has done an excellent job of taking on a leadership role with our young middle infielders, our young shortstops, teaching them what he has learned, and they look up to him because they know what type of player he is. He has almost become an extension of the coaching staff as far as middle infielders, second base shortstop are concerned.
Perkins also played a prominent role in getting both Vannoy and Hammons the opportunity to visit Alice Lloyd and see what the school could offer, a fact that Hammons himself pointed out. It was Coach Perkins Alma Mater, and when he took me up there during the summer I really liked it. I liked the small environment and it just seems like a really good college with a good baseball team. I really liked their head coach and thats what helped me decide to go up there.
Vannoy attributed the visit to his decision as well, noting, Most of it is because of Coach Perkins. If it werent for him I wouldnt be going period. Ive always loved baseball and just everything about it. I hadnt played since elementary school, so I pictured myself going for golf, but this just worked out. Coach Perkins took me up there and we tried out. I threw for the coach and he liked me. He just said he liked the way I threw and wanted me on the team.
Elaborating on the visit, Perkins went on to explain. I took these two young men to Alice Lloyd College to work in front of a recruiting coordinator. As Jon began to throw a bullpen in front of the recruiter, because of his inexperience I was worried how he was going to react, I was kind of nervous for him and even told their pitching coach, kind of coach this guy up as you go, he has limited experience. The next thing I know hes pitching a great bullpen against this guy. I think its a great story. In several years I expect us to hear to hear about a lot of success hes had with Alice Lloyd College. The school is about three hours away from Johnson County, so its going to allow them to dorm together and have each others back. Theyll have each other to lean on as they get to know other people. It can be difficult to go to a school several hours away from home and not know anyone. These young men would have made the transition smoothly even if they had went by themselves, but I think it makes it a better situation them going together.
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