There was a lot to celebrate at Central Heights Friday morning as four seniors signed their national letters of intent to play college baseball. It's the biggest signing day head coach Robert Ellis said he's ever had at Central Heights, with one of the signees being his son.
“I saw them play at 10-years-old because Duke was playing against them and they had a special group of kids. I knew that coming into it,” said Robert.
All four of the signees are four-year letterwinners and even made it to the regional semifinals as freshmen.
Each school will be getting big talent but also quite the personalities.
“They’re goofy. I call them knuckleheads all the time,” said Robert. “That's the thing though. They really enjoy each other and they're friends.”
While their personalities may be what you hear about more often, their talent speaks for itself. Starting with catcher Jackson Nichols who will be headed to McLennan Community College in the fall. McLennan was ranked second in the latest 2016 NJCAA Division I Pre-Season Poll.
“Going through the whole recruiting process and seeing what every professional ball player has gone through, going through the same exact thing is a surreal feeling,” said Nichols.
Nichols has been an all-district selection every year, taking a first-team rank his sophomore and junior year. The catcher was also invited to the Sunbelt Classic.
Eastern Oklahoma State College will be getting a Blue Devil duo with second basemen Sam Haley and shortstop Zach Johnson.
“It's pretty special. I got some pretty good teammates,” said Haley. “It's going to be pretty cool playing in college with one of my teammates from high school."
Haley has been an all-district selection the past two years for Central Heights taking a first-team honor last year.
“We both really love the coaches, love the field and what they're doing there,” said Johnson. “I really wanted to play baseball at the next level. I wanted to take this opportunity to have the chance."
Johnson was the Newcomer of the Year his freshmen season. He was the Utility Player of the Year as a sophomore as well as an all-state honorable mention. The shortstop has been invited to an All-American game, played in the Sunbelt Classic and has been an all-district honoree every season.
Last but certainly not least, Duke Ellis decided to follow his father's footsteps who played at Panola before his 16 years in the major leagues.
“He loved the place, the college, the town it was in so I said, ‘why not?’” said Duke. “Watching him play when he played in the big leagues, I wanted to be just like that. I just want to play so I've been working as hard as I can every day to become that.”
While the crew knows a bittersweet ending of going their separate ways is near, they plan on soaking up all the memories they can for one last season.
“It's pretty amazing to see the journey we've been through to lead up to this point,” said Duke.
“You grow so close to these guys so whenever you separate from them it's a bunch of brothers you don't get to see them as much any more. It's sad but then again it's fun because you get to build a brotherhood with other guys,” said Nichols.
The Blue Devils baseball program had a fifth senior sign, Sheldon McCown, who signed last year with Ouachita Baptist University. McCown is a third basemen and four-year letterwinner.
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