RUTLEDGE – Grainger High School senior baseball pitcher Jace Maxey has announced he will continue his playing career at Walters State Community College for the 2020-21 season.
“This is a blessing for sure and is such a big thing for me and my family. It’s exciting,” Maxey said of signing with the Senators. Walters State is one of the best junior college baseball programs in the nation. It has had multiple trips to the World Series over the past few decades, which includes a national championship. Head coach Dave Shelton has made it a priority to recruit the top players from the Lakeway area. Maxey now joins a long list of those who have the opportunity to play collegiately after compiling a successful high school career. Maxey said Walters State’s tradition and coaching staff was the determining factor in his decision as to where to play in college.
“Walters State is such a quality program and all the coaches there are amazing. Coach Shelton and coach Mark Allen Bounds, who is the recruiting coordinator, and the staff have been really awesome,” Maxey said.
Grainger head coach Garrett Yates said he is thrilled for the opportunity Maxey has to play at the next level.
“I’m really happy for him because, it’s kind of hard to describe if you have never met Jace, because he is one of a kind. He has a huge heart and wants to be good so bad and has a fire to make it happen. He wants it so bad and Jace works harder than just about anybody around, and the fact that he is going to continue on, even though he missed his senior year of high school, is a real blessing for him. I hate he had to miss out on this year, but at least he is going to be able to play college baseball at one of the premier college programs at the nation,” Yates said.
Yates said Maxey’s potential is unlimited. “I am glad he is going to be able to play at a place like Walters State. I think it’s going to blow up for him because Jace has only scratched the surface. He will get so much better in college. Before this year, he had never been in a real weight room program as he is only 145 pounds. When he gets to Walters State and gets into a collegiate weight program, he will get better and better. I am excited that he will be close to home where I will be able to see him grow. Playing at Walters State will be good for Jace.”
The senior flame thrower echoed his coaches’ analysis of how a larger frame will make him a more complete player. “I have to get bigger and stronger so I can compete with the guys on the team. Walters State has really good players, so I have to get bigger,” Maxey said.
Maxey’s performance through his first three seasons was enough to draw the attention of college coaches, which was to his benefit since the 2020 season was cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak. Coach Yates said the loss of the season is something that no one has ever had to deal with before and is a major blow to the young men on his team.
“I think it’s been hard on Jace. He moved here from Hancock County in his freshman year and has been all about this place. He loves Grainger High School and if you talk to him, you will see that. He, along with the rest of our seniors, are a very tight-knit team and not being able to be with them has been difficult. He has been one of the better ones about staying focused and putting in the work because there is no quit in Jace. With the team, it’s been tough for them and, like with anything, some handle this a little better than others,” Yates said.
The 2020 season offered a lot promise for Maxey and his teammates and it has been tough to contemplate what could have been.
“It was really sad to not be able to finish. We only got one game and no scrimmages in before all this happened. We didn’t get any home games this year, so that was a big disappointment. We had a lot of new stuff coming into the year with a new coach, new uniforms, and a lot of work done on the field to get ready. There were so many new things going for us this year, and a solid team, so it stinks for all of our guys. I thought we were going to have a really good season,” Maxey said.
Yates said he has tried to encourage his players to keep the faith during uncertain times. “We were pretty young this year (the Grizzlies only had three seniors on this year’s team) and because of that, I think a lot of them didn’t know what to do. It’s just one of those things that is unprecedented so we try to stay in touch as we use apps and group chat, and we are going to start Zoom meetings. We give our guys at-home workouts to keep busy. I got a text from one of our players that read, ‘I just want to play,’ so our guys just want to get back on the field, but unfortunately, that just can’t happen right now.”
“I know our team will build towards the future,” Maxey said of his underclassmen teammates when asked about the future of the Grizzlies’ program. “The freshman class was a big class and the junior class was pretty solid as well. I think Grainger will have a really good season next year and good seasons after that for sure.”
Grainger will play baseball again one day. Walters State will return to the field one day and will once again be a contender to win the national championship. Jace Maxey will be part of that pursuit.