John Milledge Academy senior Jackson Carter smiled as he flipped his Emmanuel College baseball cap onto his head Friday. He held the grin for a few photos with his family, but after that, it was back to business as usual for the southpaw.
It’s not like he was unhappy sitting in the spotlight. He’s more than used to it, having spent a good chunk of his baseball career standing on the pitcher’s mound right in the center of the diamond. It’s just in Carter’s nature to remain even-keeled no matter what’s going on around him, something that has served him well so far in baseball and should continue to do so as he moves on to the collegiate level.
“I really enjoy his demeanor and the way he competes on the mound,” JMA head baseball coach Justin Mills said. “Every time he’s on the mound you know you’ve got a chance to win. He’s a hard, hard worker, so you always love to see kids who have great attitudes and work hard be successful. I’m proud of him.”
On Friday, Carter signed to play baseball at Emmanuel College, a Division II school located northeast of Athens near the Georgia-South Carolina border, choosing that destination over a couple of others that offered him.
“I loved the atmosphere and I really liked the team’s pitching coach, Coach [Brandon] Hennessey,” Carter said on why he signed to the Conference Carolinas member program. “He’s a pretty genuine guy and I really like what’s going on over there at Emmanuel.”
Friday’s signing was the culmination of many years of hard work and many, many miles put on the Carter family vehicles chasing games. The new Emmanuel College signee has known for nearly half his life that baseball would be his chosen sport.
“He was 9 1/2 years old and we were riding down the road,” Carter’s father, DeWaine Carter, said. “He had just got done with football season. He and I have had a lot of windshield time, which has been very special for me as a dad. He looked at me and told me he didn’t want to play football anymore. I asked him what he wanted to do, and he said he only wanted to play baseball.
“This has been his dream. I’ve always said that we’re on a bus and he’s driving it. One day he’s going to put it in park and walk off that bus, but until he does that we as a family will support him as much as we can. That’s where we are today. It's been a fun ride. The whole experience has been neat, and now we can go back and look at the pieces to see how they fit together.”
Almost since choosing baseball as his sole sport, the game has been a year-round affair for the Carter family. From spending parts of Thanksgiving and Christmas days inside the batting cage to driving across multiple states to attend travel ball tournaments, that commitment has translated into a great career that landed him multiple college offers. In his time at John Milledge, Carter averaged better than a strikeout per inning while serving as one of the team’s main workhorses, including his junior year when he pitched the second-most innings to help send the Trojans all the way to the state championship series. He has command of all four of his pitches that he isn’t afraid to throw in any count, especially his curveball which he says is his best.
Although he has mostly been called upon to start games in high school, Carter’s level-headed mindset may land him a bullpen role down the road. He said he’d rather enter a bases-loaded jam than throw his first pitch with a clean slate.
“I love the fire,” the lefty said. “That’s the fun part.”
Carter plans on majoring in pre-physical therapy when he gets to Emmanuel College in the fall.
“I like the science behind why your body moves how it moves and how to move it more efficiently,” he said.
If playing baseball does not take him beyond college, he still wants to remain close to the game with his physical therapy degree focused on helping athletes in the sport.