CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Refugio athlete has been named the National Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. He received the surprise news this morning and joins the elite group of MLB athletes who have received the award in the past.
Starting pitcher Jared Kelley is no stranger to winning. Before he was ranked among the top 15 baseball draft prospects this year, he helped Refugio High School secure a state football championship in 2016. After making it to the state championship again in 2017 and losing to the Mason Punchers, Kelley withdrew from football to focus on a different passion.
“Its not very often that you get a player like him that has all the physical tools,” said head baseball coach Jarod Kay.
Kay who has known Kelley since he was in 7th grade knew this would be an easy transition for him.
“He’s very mentally tough,” said Kay. “His physical maturation, his command, his pitches and the growth that he has seen has put him in the spot that he’s in which is an opportunity to get drafted here in a week or two,” said Kay.
Today, Kelley woke up to a familiar face, letting him know he had made the right decision.
“I got on the zoom call and I was looking at Bryce Harper, I didn’t know what was happening , I didn’t know if he was a guest talker,” said Kelley. “Man it was just shocking.”
Last season, the Refugio Bobcats went all the way to the regional finals but fell to defending champions Big Sandy Wildcats.
This year, Kelley played 12 innings, 34 out of 36 outs he got came out on strike outs and he didn’t yield a single hit. However, what was suppose to be a shot at a state championship, was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’m still really upset because I know we had a good chance at doing what we’ve been talking about every since we lost last year,” said Kelley. “It’s just something that’s out of my control and there’s nothing I can really do about it but it is upsetting that we could have had the chance and it was a very good chance that we were gonna go out and do it.”
Despite the challenges of the season, Kelley remains a top draft pick and continues to exceed expectations.
“A little over 10 teams and its just been exciting I’m enjoying the process and just staying humble,” said Kelley.
Kay says Kelley is well on his way to joining the elites, and he’s proud of the example he’s set for others.
“For him to get that recognition I just hope it would inspire other kids in town to understand they can accomplish their goals too,” said Kay.