By CARA COOPER
On Saturday afternoon, while friends and family members sat in Jonah McReynolds’s living room watching the Major League Baseball draft on TV, McReynolds was in the other room on the phone.
One-by-one, scouts from as many as seven different teams called and texted McReynolds to keep him updated on their plans for the day.
After texting with a couple of teams that assured him they were going to choose the Patrick Henry Community College shortstop in the next round, McReynolds said he heard everyone gathered in his living room start cheering.
On the TV, it was announced that with their 13th round pick in the Major League Baseball first year players draft, the Texas Rangers chose Bassett graduate Jonah McReynolds.
Less than a minute later McReynolds got the call.
“It was kind of crazy,” McReynolds said. “I was texting back and forth with a couple other teams, not even the Rangers, like ‘hey we’re going to take you in this round’… Then the Texas Rangers just came out of nowhere. I didn’t even get the phone call until after I got drafted. I heard it on the TV and everyone was cheering and I was like ‘what just happened?”… And literally I get a phone call like 30 seconds after they called my name, and that was pretty cool.”
Saturday was not only historic for McReynolds, but for Henry County baseball.
He is just the third Bassett graduate and the second Patrick Henry Community College graduate to be drafted in the MLB first year players draft. He is the highest draft pick in PHCC history.
It’s not hard to believe in McReynolds’ draft potential. The 5-foot-11-inch sophomore hit .326 this year with 54 RBIs and 51 runs scored in 59 games for PHCC. He also had an .870 fielding percentage in 148 attempts at shortstop for the Patriots.
Last fall McReynolds attended several pre-draft camps and in November was named No. 57 on the list of top 100 junior college prospects.
The ranking got scouts from all over MLB talking.
“Obviously you see things, the tools, the arm strength, the defensive capabilities, the bat but it’s all about him going out and performing and doing it right now,” said PHCC head baseball coach Frank Jagoda. “A lot of people took notice. We played 60 games this spring, and in 59 of those games pro scouts were there to watch him play and other guys on the team play. That doesn’t happen by accident. That was proven by his play on the field.”
McReynolds said constantly being watched took some time to get used to.
“I felt the pressure,” he said. “They videotape you walking out of the locker room to the dugout and everything. If they’re going to invest money in you they want to know everything about you.”
Even though he met with more than half a dozen professional teams, McReynolds said secretly the Rangers were always near the top of his list.
“I went to a pre-draft camp for the Texas Rangers and I got to know the staff really well. Actually that was one of my favorite organizations I visited and I’m really, really glad to be a part of that organization,” he said.
Baseball has always been in McReynolds’ blood, and he’s been around the fields since he was in diapers.
His father was the late Ronald Matthews, a legendary PONY league coach in Henry County for 35 years until his death in 2011.
“He was probably the most influential person in my life,” McReynolds said of his father.
A 2011 Martinsville Bulletin article makes mention of McReynolds’ awe-inspiring glove at shortstop to others around Henry County when he was as young as six years old.
But it wasn’t always easy on the field for McReynolds.
Starting out at Patrick Henry during his freshman year, he was fourth on the shortstop depth chart, and didn’t play until 20 games into the season. McReynolds said he considered hanging up his cleats for good, but instead decided to face the test head on.
“I was really thinking about quitting but I stuck with it and I worked harder. Me not playing well and me not playing made me work harder to go after what I wanted,” he said.
“He came in and like every young player he certainly had a lot to learn. He would admit that from a baseball sense,” said former PHCC and current Washington & Lee head coach Lucas Jones. “His tools were there, he had the arm and speed right off the bat but needed to fine tune some things offensively and learn the game a little more. He’s a product of hard work and his story is pretty incredible to get to this point. From day one there was never a sense he wasn’t going to work. Just over the course of 2 years at PH he just developed and put himself in position to be a draft pick.”
Jagoda, who just finished his first year coaching at PHCC, said McReynolds proved both on and off the field why the Rangers made a good choice in their 13th round pick.
“The on the field stuff speaks for itself. His ability to put himself into this position, he’s turned some heads on the field with the things he did over the last two years. Some of them are unprecedented,” Jagoda said. “But the off the field stuff is more impressive. He would come to work every single day to put in his time. To get himself into this position for himself and his teammates is remarkable. His life story is truly something special.”
“When I got here in the fall, I kind of knew what I was getting myself into with the team coming in. From the very beginning I could see some things,” Jagoda added. “It’s all on Jonah. He went out and showed it on the field. He showed why he was good draft pick.”
Jones said he always saw a glimmer in McReynolds that proved he was capable of playing baseball professionally.
“I knew off the bat his arm is a pro arm throwing across the diamond. Even though he’s not a pitcher, off the mound he’s 88 to 91, pretty raw. I know from a pro standpoint you look at him and say you’ve got some tools to compete at that level,” Jones said. “He’s young too so there’s still room to grow. Hopefully with the organization he’ll be able to do that. There was always that sense the tools were there just what was he going to do with those tools… and he took those and built on them. That’s all him, he did that.”
McReynolds credits Jones and Jagoda, as well as PHCC associate head coach Casey Hodges with helping instill the love of baseball back in him after so many struggles early on. Jones, he said, convinced him to keep working and gave him the eye opener he needed to see what it took to be a college baseball player.
“All the stuff I’ve been through with the game of baseball has slowly prepared me for what I’m going to get into,” McReynolds said. “I know I’m not fully prepared mentally but that’s where growth comes. You’ve got to have a growth mindset in anything you do. I truly believe that from the bottom of my heart. There’s going to be obstacles. There’ll be games where you’re going to go in a 28-game streak… and you may be in a slump but you’ve got to trust the process. You’ve got to trust what the organization is giving you. You’ve got to become a student of the game.”
The next step for McReynolds will begin as early as today when he makes the trip out to the Rangers’ facility in Arizona to begin rookie ball.
But Henry County will always be home to the talent who worked his way up from Bassett to Post 42 to Patrick Henry Community College and the Piedmont All-Stars.
“He kind of represents Martinsville,” Jones said. “He’s kind of blue collar. He stayed home to play and worked hard and is now getting his chance.”
“Even in high school baseball I never thought I would ever get the chance to play professional baseball,” McReynolds said. “I’m thankful for this opportunity. I know a lot of people are rooting for me and I’m going to try to give it my all… For those kids out there, I’m just going to try to do it for the kids to give them hope that it can happen to any one of us if you buy into the process and really believe what your coach and everybody is telling you.”
As seen first at The Martinsville Bulletin