Annie Costabile has a behind the scenes look at Pearl as they prepare for its Friday night cross town rivalry against Northwest Rankin.
Sitting in the locker room at Target Field waiting to hear if his name would be called, Brandon’s J.T. Ginn was chewing his gum almost as fast as he can throw a baseball. That’s how his father, who was watching over 1,000 miles away on the MLB Network, could tell Ginn was nervous. Then they called his name.
“He ran out to the coaches and shook everyone’s hand,” Mike Ginn said. “He was chewing his gum so fast I could tell how nervous he was waiting. When he got out there he had his head down, I knew he couldn’t believe it.”
Believe it. Ginn, the Bulldogs’ right-handed pitcher and infield (and Mississippi State commit) made it after a summer long of tryouts and training. It started when he was invited to the Tournament of the Stars in Cary, North Carolina in June. He advanced to the 18U team trials in Minnesota in August. Ginn stuck around through the 18U team training that too was in Minnesota. On Aug. 24 it happened: Ginn was chosen as one of the best young baseball players in the country and given the opportunity to compete for a gold medal with USA draped across his chest.
Team USA kicked off pool play Friday and will begin elimination play on Thursday.
It may have been a week ago that Ginn was given the honor of playing for his country but it’s been years of blood, sweat and tears to earn the right to stand on the mound in red, white and blue.
“He started at shortstop for me as an eighth grader,” Brandon coach Stacy Hester said. “As a ninth-grader, you could tell his arm was going to be his ticket to the next level. When I say next level, it’s Major League Baseball.”
Ginn has a 97 mile per hour fastball and a curve that’ll catch most looking. As a sophomore, he recorded 10 saves and five wins for the Bulldogs. As a junior, Ginn went 5-1 on the mound with a 1.74 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings, and hit for a .483 average with 16 home runs and 66 RBIs. He was named The Clarion-Ledger’s baseball player of the year.
More: 2017 Clarion-Ledger All-State baseball
His time spent with Team USA has taken his game even further. Self-taught is how Hester described Ginn as a pitcher. Under the guidance of his Team USA pitching coach Ricky Meinhold, Ginn has grown in ways he didn’t even know were possible.
He’s always had the intangibles that coaches want in an athlete. What impressed Meinhold the most was his sound delivery. Oh, and Ginn’s “filthy” changeup and slider.
“He stays directed online and compact in his delivery and stays really really connected,” Meinhold said. “And when you do that and you put everything out front your stuff has a chance to hold. He throws 97, you don’t see him flipping up a 72 (miles per hour) curve ball. Everything is tight and late. So his slider and his changeup and his ability to recognize what he needs to use is special. Once he figured out what his stuff does and when to attack hitters the game changed.”
The future is bright for the closer. Next season he’ll suit up in the maroon and white and right now fully intends on following through with that decision regardless of the opportunities to go pro.
In this moment though he and his 19 USA teammates have one thing on their minds: winning gold.
“That’s the only goal we have as a team,” Ginn said. “And I’m pretty sure it’s pretty well known that the only reason we’re here is to win the gold medal. I think we’re all working towards that goal and we got a pretty good team. We have as good a chance as anybody.”