After twelve years of early morning workouts, challenging class forums full of deadlines and homework, college was just not in the plan for Brownsboro’s all-round athlete, Jake Conner.
So upon graduation in May of 2017, Conner grabbed his momentus diploma and ran.
As far as sports since then, Jake had not picked up a baseball since walking off the field after shutting out Paris in Bi-district in 2017.
A few phone calls and a recent local tryout for Conner now has the left-hander headed to a blooming future at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma.
The three-sport standout didn’t think he was cut-out for college.
An immediate offer to work in the West Texas oil fields sounded much better than more school books and class schedules anyhow.
Conner had been a basketball and baseball player for his first three high school years, playing varsity as a sophomore and junior garnering some All-District mentions in both.
His senior season, a new football coach talked Conner into football, and he made an impact at wide receiver and cornerback on a struggling team.
“I enjoyed playing football for a year, it was a big learning experience but I really think it helped me grow as a leader and improved my work ethic,” Conner said about his one-year gridiron stint. “I know I was throwing harder.”
Baseball was always his first love and easiest sport to play. Starting out at T-Ball at age four, Jake was always assuring his mom, Jackie “I’m gonna play in the MLB.”
When not pitching for the Bears, Conner used his left-handed cannon in the outfield and on a rare occasion played first base.
As a sophomore, Conner made his first big mark on the mound picking up the win and save in a 8-7, non-district win over a state-ranked Spring Hill.
His efforts earned him First-Team All-District accolades and All-Henderson County Pitcher.
Conner’s junior year, Jake took the reigns as the main man on the mound, garnering All-District honors and named Superlative Pitcher of the Year.
The team had a stellar 16-6 season mark and went 10-2 in league play. A one-game playoff loss to Mabank (2-1) ended what hoped to be a little special year that included All-District and All-County honors for Jake.
A less than successful football season his senior year, followed by another district basketball title with honors, Conner was set for his final baseball season.
The team success was not like ’16, posting a 12-13 mark and backing into the playoffs with a 4-4 league mark.
The lanky-lefty however put up big numbers in 52 innings of work, struck out 112 and accumulated a 0.97 ERA, again earning All-District and All-Henderson County,
The season was highlighted with the Paris shutout in his finale, a 13 strikeout win over Gilmer, and a shutout over first-place Van (7-0), more than proving his next level ability.
The past few years, a few friends close to Conner urged Jake to reconsider and use his arm to pay for a college education.
One old friend knew all along Jake had the potential but is no longer around to encourage or make Conner laugh.
Conner lost his best friend and high school battery-mate, Austin Fout last year. Another big reason for some added inspiration in Conner’s baseball revival.
“We had the same birthdays and we were always having fun and cutting up and he was the class joker,” Conner recalled. “Our classmates would ask him about me going to college and he would always crack me up saying ‘Yeah, me and Jake are going to TJC’ and we hadn’t even talked to a coach.
“And in the games, if I was struggling he knew me well enough not to even look at the coach, he’d just come out and crack a joke or something and put the game in perspective for me out there,” Conner added.
So an old baseball connection, Blake Baldridge kept telling Conner if he ever thought he was ready for a next level shot to give him a call. Conner did and Baldridge made the call to East Texas baseball prospecting ace, Chris Burroughs.
Burroughs, a former pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Texas College, and recently head man at Bishop T.K. Gorman, made the call for Conner to throw at Faulkner Park.
“He showed a plus fastball, not just a kid who hadn’t thrown in two years but its like he’s been throwing every day since he graduated,” Coach Burroughs said.
“He is a very talented player that I had heard about for a couple of years from some younger Brownsboro players, and when Blake (Baldridge) called me I knew it was going to be a great opportunity.
“I am very thankful to get to help Jake, and he is a guy that can get drafted, and the sky is the limit and ECU is incredibly lucky to have such a talented arm coming their way,” Burroughs concluded.
After the July tryout, 40 college offers were made and Conner was quick to pick where he can make a difference. Out of all the offers, the ECU offer stood out and fit the bill for Conner and his future aspirations.
“I had offers from bigger and better programs but I didn’t want to go just be a part of big expectations, but play where I can make a difference and be a part of improving and building a program.”