Good luck trying to get Jesse Strickland to boast about his individual accomplishments on the baseball field. Sure, he’s excited about earning accolades, which helped land the recent North Hall High graduate a scholarship to play at North Georgia College & State University in the fall.
However, he’s not in the market to tell everyone else how good he is; he prefers that his play as a middle infielder do the talking.
“Jesse’s what we call a ‘dirt dawg,’” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. “He’s going to take care of business on the field, and not talk about it.”
And in these transition months between high school and college, Strickland is racking up the honors that are a result of his high school career. Next week, Strickland will travel with Team Georgia to the Heartland Baseball Classic for a five-day tournament with games scheduled in both Norman and Moore, Okla. In addition to the home state squad, teams representing Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Ohio and Texas will be on hand.
After practicing as a group Sunday, Strickland said Team Georgia is loading a bus headed for the midwest.
“It was real exciting when I got invited to go with Team Georgia,” Strickland said. “I think this is a good lead-in experience to playing college baseball next year.”
Also on board with Team Georgia are recent Gainesville grads Stephen Mason and Ryan Griffith.
As a senior with the Trojans, Strickland hit .419 with 25 RBIs and was voted Team MVP. Mongero thinks that Strickland’s biggest edge is his work ethic. Rarely a day passed that North Hall’s coach didn’t see his shortstop in the indoor hitting facility taking cuts or scooping up ground balls in the infield.
Strickland started the summer playing in the Georgia Senior All-Stars event in Columbus, which he was nominated for by his coach. From there, based on his performance, he was considered for the Heartland Classic.
“In the All-Stars event, I think he hit the ball real hard and played real solid defense,” Mongero said. “I think it’s good for Jesse to play things like this for his confidence and to see how he stacks up against the best players out there.”
This isn’t the first time as a baseball player that Strickland has been recognized. Leading into his senior year, he jumped on to the radar as a Georgia Top 100 selection.
However, his senior season was almost over before it ever started. During a summer passing camp with the Trojans football program, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury while going for the ball at Johnson High. The unfortunate part of the injury is that it brought his football career to a sudden end; The good news, however, was that it put his entire focus on getting back to baseball.
That he did.
His senior season started on a tear with a .455 average and 17 runs through the first 16 games of the season.
“That football injury really put things into perspective for me,” Strickland added. “It showed not to take playing for granted because you never know when your last day is going to be.”
Mongero wasn’t at all surprised with Strickland’s strong comeback from a serious knee injury. Mongero gave Strickland the responsibility of starting shortstop at the junior varsity level back in the eighth grade, and his star middle infielder ran with it from there.
“He never relinquished it after that,” Mongero said. “He really solidified our infield with his play.”