Thursday, July 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ slugger to Monticello

Leader sports editor

Recent Jacksonville graduate Kaleb Reeves recently signed a baseball scholarship to play for the University of Arkansas in Monticello. Reeves was the leading hitter on one of the best-hitting teams in 5A baseball this past season, and helped lead the Red Devils to the state semifinals.

Reeves, son of Vernon and Michele Blocker, had verbally committed to the University of Central Arkansas but had not signed when UAM coach John Hardin increased the scholarship money to land the former Red Devil.

“It had always been a dream of mine to play at UCA,” Reeves said. “I was pretty much set on it, but coach (Hardin) asked me what it would take to get me to change my mind. He said ‘would more money do it?’ I said it would help. So he did it. That told me that he really wanted me and thought I could step right in and contribute right away.”

Reeves has been at least a part-time starter since his sophomore year, and became a regular starter in 2013, but he didn’t dazzle with his bat in either of those years. He came out of his shell in a big way his senior season.

“Coach (Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows) told me before the season started this was going to be my year,” Reeves said. “I started practicing as hard as I could and putting in the work. I think that had a little bit to do with why the coaches had so much confidence in me, but I still didn’t think I was going to have this kind of year. I really didn’t expect it.”

Reeves finished the high-school season with a .488 batting average and an on-base percentage of .658 – both team highs. He also led the Red Devils in runs scored with 36, home runs with three and RBIs with 28. He was second on the team with nine stolen bases and eight doubles. His American Legion season has been hampered by an ankle injury suffered in an early game, and he’s missed the last three weeks, but he says he’s now ready to come back.

“I’m going to go to the next game,” Reeves said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to play.”

The former JHS right fielder and relief pitcher plans to study nursing in Monticello, but says the ultimate dream is to get a shot at professional baseball.

“That’s been my dream since I was 4 years old,” Reeves said. “That’s something I’ve been working very hard for, and I’m going to keep working at it.”