Baseball always on his mind
Published 10:23 am Friday, June 6, 2014
COURTLAND—Even though the ride at Southampton Academy is done, his baseball days are far from over.
And for SA pitcher and shortstop Jacob Holland, that’s fitting, considering how big baseball has been in his life. When asked what he does when he is not thinking about baseball, his first response was, “When I’m not thinking about baseball?” He laughed.
“I’m always thinking about baseball.”
It’s been that way since he was little.
“My dad grew up playing baseball, and he kind of taught everything to me,” Holland said. “Every day, we’d be in the back yard. He’d be out there trying to teach me some new stuff and get me better.”
Now that he has pitched his last pitch as a Raider, he’s transitioning to the next phase: to be a Panther at Ferrum College, a D3 school south of Roanoke. Holland has what he described as close to a full-ride scholarship based on academic and leadership awards.
“It’s a small school and the classes are really small, so I’ll get a lot of one-on-one with the teachers,” he said. “And they’ve got a good baseball program. They won the conference this year. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ferrum is one of the first of many baseball transitions that Holland has planned, as he’d like to transfer to a D1 school one day — it’s still kind of up in the air as to what school.
“The University of Richmond came and looked at me this year, and VMI has looked at me,” he said. “But I don’t know yet. It’s still kinda open.”
Then he’d like to take a shot at playing professionally, but for now he’s focused on Ferrum. He said he chose the school over a community college because of his experience there.
“I got along really well with the coach,” Holland said. “Head Coach Ryan Brittle is really good. He was the assistant coach at (Virginia) Tech for a little while, so he’s got a lot of experience.”
It doesn’t hurt that some of his classmates are also attending.
“I’ve got a couple of friends going there, so I can be close to them,” he added.
Being a Raider has been one of the best experiences of his life.
“I’ve loved it,” Holland said. “This school is like a big family. I love the coaches and all of the players that have been with me for my four years here. I’ve done really well here, and the competition has been good.”
When asked how he did this year, which includes going 8-0 on the hill with an ERA under 1.00, earning Conference MVP and a spot on the All-State First Team, he humbly responded, “Pretty well. I couldn’t have done any of it without my teammates, though.”
Head Raider Baseball Coach Tim Nixon said he thought Holland’s season was good.
“I thought he had a very solid season,” he said, adding that Holland hit in the .430s and belted 6 homeruns. “There’s really nothing negative I can could say. He had a great year.”
The main thing Holland wanted to talk about was the team, which went 23-3. Unfortunately, one of those losses was the last game of the season.
“The championship game,” he said. “Losing that game — it will always stick with me. We knew we should have won it, but didn’t. It’ll always motivate me.”
It’s a slight bitter taste, but Holland said he wasn’t going to let it ruin the year.
“We were a very close team all through the season,” he said. “The last game didn’t turn out the way we planned it to be, but we still kept our heads up. We played a good season — 23-3 is a good record.”
Nixon said Holland’s been his top pitcher for the last four years.
“Even as a freshman, I had him starting in a state playoff game,” he said about a game against North Cross School, which was at the time ranked second in the state. “The game went 10 innings, and he pitched all 10 and won the game. That was the game that brought us back into believing that we could compete with anyone.
“In the next four years of college, I think he’ll grow as much as he did over the four years here. I think he’ll work his butt off and mature into a good college player.”
Holland said that around age 13, he knew that he’d have a future in baseball beyond high school. Before that, in mustang league, he decided to stick with pitching, partially thanks to his coach Phillip Kojack.
“I’ve always been good at pitching,” he said. “My pitching coach told me that I’d mainly be a pitcher because that’s what comes most natural to me, so I’ve always stuck with it.”
Being on the mound also just feels right.
“I just like doing everything I can, pitching wise, to make sure our team goes out on top,” Holland said. “When you are on the mound, you have control of everything on the field. It’s a good feeling.”
He’s appreciative of everything his coaches have done for him.
“Tim Nixon and Dale Marks have helped me through everything all the way through my four years of varsity,” he said. “They’ve had a big impact on my life. I’m going to miss them next year.”
Nixon said there’s one thing Holland would have to work on.
“Jacob probably puts too much pressure on himself,” he said. “He’s probably his own worst enemy, and I think it’s because he’s so afraid to fail.”
As he starts his college career, Nixon said Holland would have to get over his fear of failure.
“He still needs to work hard, if baseball is going to be his career, but he can’t let fear of failure be a road block,” he said. “He can’t stay in his comfort zone. I don’t want him to set himself up for failure, but in the career of baseball you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone. And I think he will.”
Nixon said that if Holland ever needed anything, he and Marks were only a call away.
“I don’t forget the kids that play for me,” he said. “I’ll keep up with him, and I wish him the very best.”
Baseball has been an important part of his life for almost all of his youth years, and it’s indeed always on his mind.
“It’s just something I’ve always done. Every weekend; two to three days out of the week, I’m hitting off the tee, going to pitching lessons – just trying to keep doing the small things.”
He’s loved the sport all of his life, and his dad, Jason Holland, who coached him through recreation league baseball, helped him build that love.
“He’s kind of been my motivation,” Holland said. “I try to get better every day for him.”